Buttered Shrimp fom Ate Choi

1 02 2009
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Buttered Shrimp from Ate Choi. Photo taken by Spider-man, using his iPhone.

FRIDAY IS actually one of the days in the week when I shun rice totally.  I’ve incorporated rice back into my diet, but still, I’ve been keeping it at bay – about two to three times in a week, tops.

 

But last Friday’s lunch turned out to be extra special.  I felt that to not have my meal with rice would do the whole thing an unjustice.  You see, Ate Choi, one of the people I’ve known at work for over a decade now, had brought me Buttered Shrimp – her own recipe.  She and her team mates have been very kind to me, always bringing me food whenever they would have small gatherings at work.  They’ve counted me as their own.  And I can’t help but feel very appreciative of that.

 

I’ve actually tasted this dish of hers (buttered shrimp) long before – using either shrimps or black tiger prawns, depending on the catch of the day.  But this was the first time that she brought it exclusively for me!  It was a huge batch, easily over a kilo or even two kilos!

 

I wasn’t into running the risk of letting my blood pressure and cholesterol levels run into overdrive, so I opted to share these with some of my engineers and even friends from our Design Engineering Center.  Besides, there were really a lot.  Spider-man and I divided the whole thing into three huge bowls that we popped in to the microwave for a quick reheat.

 

The shrimps were really fresh.  And were perfectly cooked.  Not a single one had the shells clinging to the flesh, which to me is a sure indication of overcooking.  Each shrimp was a good medium size, with a really, naturally sweet goodness.  My engineers, even my other friends Jet and Ems, loved the shrimps.

 

I could surmise how Ate Choi must have made her buttered shrimp.  But realizing just how good she does make it, I couldn’t help but ask for the recipe.  I hope she got my e-Mail and that she would respond to it with the recipe attached!  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.





Easy Entertaining with Darryl & Brenda Aragon-Gallo

29 01 2009

 

[Written on 27 January 2009, Tuesday, 5:32 P.M.]

 

One of my most favorite FoodNetwork TV shows is “Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello.”  It espouses the idea of making your dinner guests – family or close friends, or both – to be part of the cooking process.  At one point, I watched that show for a full year-and-a-half, non-stop.  And sometimes, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are his guests really – genuinely – enjoying the experience of having to be part of the preparation and all that cooking?  Or is it just because the cameras are rolling and they have to put on a face?!”

 

I finally get my answer just right here, right now!

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My good good friends, newlyweds of two months - Mr. & Mrs. Darryl Xerxes & Brenda Aragon-Gallo - our gracious dinner hosts!

 

I’m here at Hazel, Buls and Judy’s place where my good friends – the newlyweds Darryl & Brenda Aragon-Gallo – are whipping up what to me is dinner that is as Italian as Italian could get (I mean, on this far side of the metro)!  And I have helped.  Hahaha!!!  I give myself props for all the five cans I opened.  And all the tasting I get to do in the process.

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The very lovely Judy Conti, checking out the progress of my blog entry so far!

 

I had to drop everything at 4:00 P.M. sharp at work as I, the perennial commuter, was at the mercy of those who brought wheels.  I shared a ride with the gracious hosts, together with Hazel and Allan.  One quick stop was at the grocery to pick up drinks and some more fresh chicken.

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The housemates (clockwise from left) - Buls, Judy, the TJ, and Hazel.

 

Once here at Hazel’s place, Brenda made a quick dash to the kitchen, and like clockwork, launched to unleash her culinary prowess.  I’ve been friends with her for quite some time but seeing how adept she is at the kitchen, I feel like I’m being ushered into a whole new world about my friend that is so beyond all the numbers and all the spreadsheets she analyzes (like it’s nobody’s business) in her capacity as one of our Senior Finance Analysts – and an “Employee Of The Year” at that.

 

You know that I too have patted my own back quite a number of times already here on my blog.  But being here in Brenda’s presence, I feel I didn’t have any business to even fuss about with the ingredients, the knives, the pots and the pans.  So I’ve just been sitting here, taking the experience in.  And obviously, I couldn’t help but write about it.

 

The first thing Brenda pulled out of the refrigerator was a huge Tupperware dish that contained a whole chicken that she has been marinating since last night.  She took off the container’s lid and instantly, I got a whiff of fragrance so good I could’ve almost asked for it in a bottle.  It was robust, warm, almost woodsy… but at the same time rounded with hints of citrus.  I just had to ask Brenda or otherwise, much like a restless kid, I wouldn’t be able to contain myself the whole night.  I think I’m actually going to end up asking Brenda almost everything about the night’s menu!

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Ready for her close up... The marinated chicken that later became Brenda's glorious roasted chicken, oozing with the goodness of fresh oranges, garlic, onion, and cumin!

 

As it defnitely would take longer to cook, the chicken is first to get going.  Brenda put it in the broiler and as she told me (and as I saw as I took a peek), it was first marinated in her own recipe – a mixture of oranges (juice and rind), quartered white onions, whole cloves of garlic, some other seasonings (I suppose) and…  cumin!  How I wish you could smell the concoction as my words are seeming to fail me.  It is that good.  I knew the broiler has started a good job with the chicken when its savory aroma started to fill the kitchen.

 

Brenda has now turned her attention to the stove top where she turned both burners on and put the pasta pot on one (where the linguine is now cooking), and the large non-stick skillet on the other.  She melted some butter on the skillet and sauteed coarsely chopped white onions.  Then she added chopped chicken breast and continued the sauteing.  One thing I notice about Brenda is that she seasons her dish every step of the way (ever so carefully).  I’m not complaining – it is exactly how I do it!  After a while, she pulled out one ingredient I didn’t expect – white wine – a Paul Masson California Chablis, to be specific!  It is the kind Darryl drinks straight out of the bottle.  Now that’s an instant tip right there.  Use wine that you will actually drink from the glass.  Because once it heats up in the cooking process, the alcohol evaporates and the flavors concentrate.  So, start with good wine!  After a few more minutes and quick stirs, Brenda added in the sliced button mushrooms, and all purpose cream.  Once the lingune was done, she tossed it in to the sauce.  She adjusted the seasonings and with the sprinkling of really good parmesan cheese, the pasta is done!

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Simmering to perfection... Brenda's pasta cream sauce!

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While all the pasta cooking was happening, Hazel and Darryl started work on the bruschetta, using a contraption that I was so tempted to play with!  I was actually so amused that finally, I was in the presence of this food processor thing-y that I’ve only seen on home TV shopping.  Darryl proudly shared that it was a gift of his to Brenda, bought in the States.  Back to the bruschetta, I noticed that Brenda’s recipe (as executed by the Hazel) is made of sliced bread (she got a French baguette) which she tops with grated cheese (local cheese this time, not her usual mozzarella) and a special tomato “tapenade” of fresh plum tomatoes, onions, and lemon juice.  She popped the bruschetta in the toaster oven and in a few minutes, put on the table the perfect dish to whet our appetites and lure us to devour the rest of the dinner spread (ahead!).

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The bruschetta-making machine. And I'm referring to the lovely Hazel. Hehehe.

 

I’m checking my wristwatch now and I realize that Brenda has been cooking for only about an hour.  And as I write, the dinner table is already being set.  Taking its rightful place in the center of the table is the pasta dish.  Brenda hesitated earlier when I asked if this is her version of the classic “Fettuccine Alfredo.”  She quipped, “Wala lang, recipe ko lang. (Not really.  I just put this recipe together.)”  As I have discovered in the course of this past hour, all that my friend is lovingly putting together are dishes she whips up in the comfort of her own home – from when she was still living with her family, to now that she is barely into her second month as a married woman (the Mrs. Gallo, no less!).  Right after the broiled (or roasted?) chicken was plated and put next to the plates of lovely bruschetta, everybody was called to the table.  And right on time, all of the guests – colleagues and friends – came pouring in, keeping the appointed time of 6:00 P.M.

 

I am the outsider in this gathering, earning my ticket thru my friendship with Brenda & Darryl, and Hazel.  And rightfully so, I’m quite contented staying here in my little corner as I observe just how beautifully food brings people close together.  As you can see, no matter how bad things are happening out there, so long as you still find the time to make a good meal, sit down, and share it with the people you really care about, all can be well in the world.

 

And I’m seeing that come to life right here, right now!  I don’t know who all these people are (except that they are Finance professionals from either Intel or Numonyx) but the way they relate to each other, and the way they even mention each other’s names (real or given by someone  / who the hell is Zelda?!  Hahaha!) – stressing the consonants and caressing the vowels – tell me these people genuinely care about each other.

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Darryl & Brenda, Hazel, Dennis & Cindy (birthday girl, 28th of January), the TJ, the ladies of Intel Finance, and eNTeNG.

I’m already famished at this point.  But my hunger pangs are a bit abated by the celebration of friendship in front of me.  As Hazel sort of treats me like one of their own, we did away with the formal “this is eNTeNG, this is…” introductions and instead rattled off one another’s names.  I do remember some though (but I won’t spell them out here lest I commit mistakes!).

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But reality has set in and the grumblings in my stomach can no longer be ignored.  As a matter of fact, I just got a plate full of the pasta.  It is so good.  And if you know me, I’m not crazy about cream-based sauces.  But this one is so good.  I love the hint of white wine in the background.  It sort of gives Brenda’s dish a depth of character once the richness of the cream subsides and the next layers of flavors explode.  Just one thing I wonder though is how nutmeg would fit into her dish.  Probably I will try at home or she may try it too.  See Brenda, I am going to make your dish at home!

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Front and center - the masterpiece that is Brenda's Roasted (Mediterranean Orange) Chicken.

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Now, something has to be said about the chicken.  I actually have been fearing nothing would be saved for me after the attack of the lovely Finance ladies (hehehe) but fortunately, I managed to slice a portion of the breast.  Right before I pierce the very tender meat with my fork, I’m playing in my head the high hopes I have for this roasted chicken, especially after I gobbled up all the caramelized onions that were left with the drippings.  And I’m not disappointed at all!  The meat is very tender, easily giving in to my fork.  It is so moist, oozing with its natural sweetness that only got further accentuated and heightened by the cumin.  Brenda, please do me the honor of sharing with me your recipe!  Please.  Pretty please!

 

I downed this lovely dinner with a couple of glasses of Sprite.  And with the last bites of the dessert (a very nice refrigerator cake), I felt a satisfaction in my tummy that extended all the way to my heart.  A very warm, friendly embrace on a chilly night (outside it is chilly!).

 

And with a tummy pleased to no end, I’m ready to take part in this board game they brought along.  If only I could figure out what it is called and what the rules are!  Hahaha!

 

Thanks Brenda!  Dinner was fabulous!

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This was the board game we played. It was fun!





eNTeNG’s Mushroom & Cheese Snack

22 01 2009

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AS I said in previous posts, I have started to go on a weight loss diet plan and have actually been on it since August last year.  With much encouragement from Superman and Batman, I have managed to stick to my self-imposed diet.  And so far, i have lost around 18lbs already.

 

But as the sage counsel of my superhero best friends goes, a sensible diet needs to be coupled with a regular exercise regimen for optimum results.  And that ‘s what I have just started!  I’ve revived my 4- to 5-kilometer fun runs after office hours!  I’m thinking two to three times a week will help a lot!

 

But I’m not really going to talk about jogging here.  I just thought about sharing with you one super simple recipe of a snack that has become a regular in my total weight loss plan (diet + exercise).  It’s “eNTeNG’s Mushroom & Cheese.”  I whip this up for a light mid-afternoon or early-evening snack.  A number of times already, this has actually been dinner for me!

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I just need four ingredients.  And freshness is key!  I use two kinds of fresh button mushrooms – the classic white and swiss brown – which I slice rather thickly.  For white button mushrooms, I buy Tuscan Fields, and for swiss brown, I get the ones from Malaysia, which come with an orange-and-white sticker on the package, saying “Swiss Brown.”  Both scream: “pesticide-free!”   You may use just one kind of button mushrooms but I find the combination of the white and the brown interesting, perfectly marrying even… to give a robust, well-rounded mushroom flavor.  On its own, the white button mushrooms are tender, with a really really intense flavor.  The swiss brown mushrooms, on the other hand, are a bit tougher, though with a really subtle – almost faint – flavor.  These mushrooms are so good that I end up munching on almost half of them before I get to completely slice everything!  And by the way, NEVER wash fresh mushrooms or they’ll become tough.  I use a folded paper towel just to wipe the caps of each mushroom.

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The other two ingredients I need are Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coon® Light & Tasty Shredded Natural Cheddar Cheese, with 25% less fat!

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In a well-aged skillet (non-stick works well too!), heat a little extra virgin olive oil.  Put the sliced mushrooms on one layer, and heat through.  DO NOT STIR FRY, unless you want to end up with a soupy dish!  After about a minute, when the heated sides of the mushrooms have been seared, with most of the mushroom’s natural juices kept, you may give them a light stir.  If you’re patient enough, you may flip them one by one.  Hehehe.  And in just one more minute, you may remove the mushrooms from the heat and you are ready to plate the dish!

 

I put my mushrooms on my Lenox Temper-Ware® ‘Freezer-to-Oven-to-Table-to-Dishwasher’ Silhouette plate, and immediately sprinkle on top of them a generous amount of the shredded cheese.  I mix them and the residual heat melts the cheese beautifully!  The resulting mushroom & cheese medley tastes so good and comforting.  This particular light cheddar cheese complements the mushroom well.  And I couldn’t stop getting forkfuls, using my favorite Oneida® Silversmiths fork that is just so pretty.

 

Whenever I have the time, I make a mean all-eggwhite omelet with this mushroom & cheese as filling.

 

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eNTeNG c”,)™©’s Angel Hair Pomodoro Redux

25 11 2008

My post last November 21, where I shared my own recipe for eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  Angel Hair Pomodoro, gave me hunger.. no, let me correct that..  craving pangs!  My friends and family know, that quite ironically, for someone who loves food so much, I have imposed a personal injunction for me to go on a no-carbs diet.  It all started with that first long weekend in August.  It was the perfect time to get something started (with much encouragement from ‘Superman‘).  So I did start my own version of South Beach Diet  no rice, no pasta, no oriental noodles, no bread.  Huwwwwaaattt?!?!!

And I have actually remained faithful to this diet, shedding off ~15 lbs.  from when I started!  Now, I’m training my sights to reviving my 4KM  5KM fun runs.  The last time I joined one, I was the “most improved”, clocking in an improvement of about 30% from my previous best time.  I need to do this again as my diet-only weight loss has plateaud at 15 lbs.!  And since a month back, I had reluctantly consented to giving myself “cheat” meals, having a little rice.. and a little pasta.  But only stress at work had broken my resolve to stick to my diet.

And recently, as I was trying to point out, my eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  Angel Hair Pomodoro post won over me  a classic case of ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

I checked our pantry (‘pantry’.. I think that’s too much of a word!) and found a couple of 14.5-ounce cans of a product that I now swear by  Hunt’s Stewed Tomatoes!  They were so good.  I used everything in the can, tomatoes, juice and all.  I chopped them coarsely, and used them in place of the ‘usual’ tomatoes in my recipe.  The stewed tomatoes were so good that I ended up munching on them while I worked in the kitchen.  Trust me, they were that good.  But then again, I am a tomato lover so you have all the right to doubt me as well.  Hehehe.

The resulting angel hair pomodoro?  It was so good.  So yummy!  It was verging on the ‘sweet’ side, which I think, was a big plus because it was as Italian as you could get, but it was something that was kid-friendly too.  It actually reminded me of one of my own favorites from Café Bola, their ‘Tomato Basil‘ pasta.

Channeling Mark Straussman, chef and owner of The Campagna Restaurant in New York, and author of the book The Campagna Table, I exerted effort in making my plate pretty.  I twisted the angel hair (from a certain height over the pan), twisting as I went to putting it on the plate.  Then I topped the nice bunch of pasta with more of the chunky tomato sauce.  And of course, lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

For added points, I served my angel hair pomodoro on one of my ‘Manhattan‘ plates from the ‘Bar Lingo‘ series of ‘The Pottery Barn‘.  I have a collection of those, which I got from the States.

Here are a couple of pictures I took with my Nokia 5310 Xpress Music cellphone.

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eNTeNG c”,)™©’s Angel Hair Pomodoro, made with Hunt's Stewed Tomatoes. Yum!.. Served on the 'Manhattan' plate from the 'Bar Lingo' series of 'The Pottery Barn'.

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I was making a presentation for our upcoming CEO visit so I had to bring my angel hair pomodoro with me to the study table..





eNTeNG c”,)™©’s Angel Hair Pomodoro

21 11 2008

A NUMBER of people kind of know that I am harboring thoughts of becoming a chef.  I do.  Will I go get myself the education to be one?  It depends on a lot of things.  Though this I know for sure – I don’t see it happening in the immediate, sensible horizon.  If I’d look back to everything that has passed so far in this year, I see moments when I found myself standing on the precipice of change.  You’re guessing it right.  I didn’t jump on the chance to take my life to a totally different course.  Don’t get me wrong..  I’m so loving my engineering job.  But sometimes I find myself thinking I could be a chef.  Oh well..  at least I think.  I think therefore I exist!

 

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eNTeNG c”,)™©’s Angel Hair Pomodoro... Can't help but take this shot!

 

So while that is not yet true, I just make sure I have as much time in the kitchen, whipping up my ‘signature’ dishes as much as I can.  One that I truly love is what I have started to call as eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  Angel Hair Pomodoro.  Sometimes, when all else just feels so wrong, I make this dish.  Eat.  And just feel all my cares wash away.  Sometimes, my brother would really request for this – on a whim – in the middle of the night.  Check out the time stamp on the picture above.  I loved how this one ended up looking like that I couldn’t resist to take a shot!

 

 

How did my love affair with angel hair pomodoro start?  It was all because of Italianni’s, way back in the day, at their first branch in Greenbelt, along Legaspi Street in Makati, near Nandau.  Whew!  I had to catch my breath with that desciption!  Hehe.  I can still vividly recall how pretty the dish looked like, served in the pan it (most probably) was cooked in.  The diced red tomatoes – sometimes, both red and a little yellow tomatoes – glistening with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil would always be impossible to resist.  That has been how I have loved pasta made – tossed well together with the sauce, and not just topped with it.  Even after a big bowl of my favorite Rosemary & Potato Soup, I could still clean up a huge serving portion of this pasta.  Hey, even a whole one!  As the years went on, I had made a number of attempts to perfect my angel hair pomodoro, especially before I left for my year-and-a-half-long assignment in the States.  The recipe I’m sharing here is the closest I got to perfection.

 

How much do I love this?  You have to know that this dish was my any-night dinner in Folsom.  It’s simple and quick and needs just a few ingredients.  Quite a number of my friends have liked this as well and would even request me to prepare them some (Millet and Agnes … even Boojie liked it a lot!).  If I wasn’t expecting company, I would eat this dish straight out of the pan, while standing by the kitchen counter.  Sarrrap !!!  The secret to its quickness is having all the sauce ingredients and cooking utensils ready.  Dry angel hair pasta cooks in just two (2) minutes so I start sauteing the sauce while bringing my pasta water to a boil.  That way, the sauce and the pasta get ready at about the same time.  I’ve found out that De Cecco makes the finest dry pasta.  But here at home, you may use San Remo because I think they’re the only ones who make angel hair.  This recipe is good for two persons for a generous dinner or for four persons for a light snack or lunch.  But I almost always end up eating everything!  So this is just good for one eNTeNG  c”,)™©.

 

700g to 1000g of ripe ‘San MarzanoRoma tomatoes or baby pear tomatoes

   (I actually use more!)

   or  a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (‘La Valle is a good brand)

4 to 6 Tablespoons of the finest extra virgin olive oil (I use ‘Bertolli’)

8 ounces or 225g angel hair pasta (‘De Cecco’ or ‘San Remo’)

5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly (about 1/8-inch)

pinch of cayenne pepper (or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)

12 or more fresh basil leaves

Grated Parmesan cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)

   or freshly shaved Parmesan cheese (“shaved” looks more artistic!)

coarse salt

 

Blanch tomatoes in briskly boling water for about 5 to 10 seconds.  Plunge the tomatoes into an ice-water bath and then remove the skins and the seeds.  For a really ‘wet’ sauce, you may not remove the seeds.  That would be okay.  But DEFINITELY remove the skins!  Chop the tomatoes coarsely (or in small cubes) and set aside.  Fill your pasta pot with enough water according to the pasta package instructions.  Cover and bring to a rolling boil.  Then, in a 12-inch saute pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to very low (as low as you can go), then add the garlic and the cayenne pepper.  Cook this together slowly, with occasional stirring, to infuse the olive oil with the aroma of the garlic and the bite of the cayenne pepper.  The garlic will slowly take its distinctive, faint golden color (without actual browning!!!) while its flavor marries beautifully with that of the oil and the cayenne pepper.  Add the chopped tomatoes and let it simmer.  At this point, the pasta water should have come to a rolling boil.  Add the angel hair pasta and cook it al dente, which, based on my experience, is always at least one minute less than the manufacturer’s recommended cooking time.  When the pasta is about to get ready, tear the basil leaves into the tomato sauce.  Drain the pasta and quickly toss it together with the sauce.  Give the pasta another quick stir and voila !!!  You have a sumptuous Angel Hair Pomodoro dinner.  Serve it while it’s hot, with a generous topping of freshly grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  Have some more of the cheese to pass around.  Enjoy 🙂