Fresh greens to zoozh up the red

1 11 2014

I HAVE played with my angel hair pomodoro recipe so often that it has come to erase whatever iota of doubt I may have had towards the theological concept of reincarnation.


My ANGEL HAIR POMODORO in one of its many incarnations, yet again.

My ANGEL HAIR POMODORO in one of its many incarnations, yet again.

I guess it is its simplicity that predisposes it to my fickle mindedness.  It calls for only a handful of ingredients – often always stocked up in my pantry and refrigerator crisper – that now it hardly feels like an actual recipe at all.  You can see just how often I have played with it by simply running a search in this blog.

Its latest manifestation calls for a generous sprinkling of fresh whole basil leaves.  This means cooking the sauce only up to the point when I will need to add the fresh basil leaves, which I would tear by hand (never chopped with a knife to prevent the blade from bruising this delicate herb).

What results from this change is a pasta dish with a balance so palpable that you’d savor the cooked goodness of fresh roma tomatoes that have broken down into the sauce, as the fresh basil leaves explode with freshness in your mouth with every crunch.

Each forkful of this pasta dish is the perfect balance of al dente angel hair, perfectly cooked sauce of fresh roma tomatoes, and perfectly crunchy fresh basil leaves.

Each forkful of this pasta dish is the perfect balance of al dente angel hair, perfectly cooked sauce of fresh roma tomatoes, and perfectly crunchy fresh basil leaves.

This is so good that I would never feel the need to reach for the wedge of Parmigiano–Reggiano and the vegetable peeler to shave paper–thin slivers of yumminess that can only come from hard, granular cheese from the area west of the river Reno.

It really doesn’t call for any added touch.

Having the basil still bright green adds to the enjoyment of having this angel hair pomodoro.

Having the basil still bright green adds to the enjoyment of having this angel hair pomodoro.


Of course, the requisite aerial shot of this edible work of art, a play of colors, textures, and flavors.  Parmigiano–Reggiano highly optional, totally unnecessary.

Of course, the requisite aerial shot of this edible work of art, a play of colors, textures, and flavors. Parmigiano–Reggiano highly optional, totally unnecessary.

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

The Blue Kitchen angel hair aligue pasta

26 10 2014

THIS RECIPE is so good it will make you want to reach for your cholesterol–lowering medication just by reading it.

But at the same time, it is quite simple that it wouldn’t drive you nuts to curl your culinary biceps (if there’s such a thing) a hundred of times just to build the muscle needed to whip this dish up.

Today’s six–ingredient fix is my The Blue Kitchen Angel Hair Aligue Pasta, the result of still having a stash of a bottle of The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue.  To someone not Filipino, “aligue” is simply crab fat, which if we’re being very specific, is not actually fat, but the heptopancreas, the innards that performs the function of both liver and pancreas.  Crack a crab open and it would be the stuff that lines the shell.  In lobsters, this is the tomalley.

Another one of my quick fixes involves a maximum of six ingredients.  This one features a new favorite bottled product – The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue!

Another one of my quick fixes involves a maximum of six ingredients. This one features a new favorite bottled product – The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue!


I made the acquaintance with The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue by way of a gift that found its way to the dining table at home.

I made the acquaintance with The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue by way of a gift that found its way to the dining table at home.

And to anyone Filipino or otherwise, I have to say that The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue is simply the best.  The operative word here is “pure”.  Topped off with just a tiny film of oil – it’s the perfect sunset orange hue, rife with the promise of almost buttery smooth goodness.  You taste the hint of saltiness – but not the salt.  They are online at

For this simple dish, all you need are


Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil


The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue

De Cecco® or San Remo® Angel Hair Pasta

Fresh Kalamansi (Small limes, or calamondin)

Millel® Parmesan Cheese (optional)


I add up to six tablespoons of Bertolli® extra virgin olive oil  to a heavy–bottom pan over medium heat.  I use that much oil as this sauce tends to be on the dry side, with just the pure aligue alone.  Using my handy IKEA® garlic press, I mince five large cloves of garlic directly on to the oil.  All I need is to infuse the oil with the essence of the garlic.  The moment I catch a whiff of it – which should be within mere seconds from when the garlic hits the oil – I add about three heaping tablespoons of the The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue.  The moment the whole thing comes back to a slight bubble, I squeeze in the juice of three fat kalamansi.  All that’s left to do is to tumble in al dente De Cecco® or San Remo® angel hair pasta, which has been cooked according to package directions.  Once the pasta is completely stained with the sauce, it is ready to serve!  This one doesn’t even call for a sprinkling of salt at all.

This next step is totally optional (as I am very old school about the use of cheese on seafood–based sauces), grate – not shave! – onto this, as much Millel® parmesan cheese as you like.  Enjoy!

This has got to be one of the yummiest pastas I've ever had!  I would sometimes eat this straight out of the pan, standing by the kitchen counter.

This has got to be one of the yummiest pastas I’ve ever had! I would sometimes eat this straight out of the pan, standing by the kitchen counter.


All I prefer to add to my sauce is a squeeze of these fat kalamansi!

All I prefer to add to my sauce is a squeeze of these fat kalamansi!

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

For the love of tomato

11 05 2013

With tomatoes, garlic and basil, I’m always halfway to a satisfying pasta.

THE TOMATOES are not San Marzano, the kind ripened by the kisses of the Neapolitan sun.  They’re not even the more accessible Roma.  They’re from Malaysia by way of Cold Storage.

Except for Bertolli that originates from Lombardy, none of my store cupboard essentials for my fail–safe pasta boasts of direct Italian provenance.  The garlic is from China and is packed clustered in bulbs of a few cloves each, ready to be thrown in to bak kut teh (pork ribs soup).  The cayenne pepper is a Kiwi.  The basil leaves – bunches of heady perfume – come proudly from Malaysia too.  While suspiciously named after a Catholic saint, the angel hair pasta hails from Down Under.  The grated parmesan cheese, as if snow falling on cedars, trickle down on to the pasta all the way from the States.

The coarse salt I use to make the pasta water as salty as the Mediterranean and the sauce tasty and balanced is Kosher, from Chicago, and is endorsed by one of my favorite chefs, Rocco DiSpirito.  Oh, there’s at least one more Italian connection after all.

I’ve been fixing myself a huge bowl of my angel hair pomodoro for about five nights in a row now.  And I don’t see the craving letting up any time soon.  I’ve been in dire need of comfort that only it can provide.

The byproduct – the study in globalization that makes it to my heavy bottom skillet just before I toss the finished dish on to my shallow bowl – never ceases to amuse me with its apparent depth.


In the middle of the night, I would suddenly have the urge to make this pasta. Whenever I’ve run out of supplies, I can just walk to the nearest Cold Storage. If it would be past 10:00 PM, I’d go to Fair Price Xtra.



It’s quite important to wash your fresh produce well. As you can see, I just throw everything in my trusty IKEA strainer and wash away. I rub the skins of the tomatoes pretty vigorously while singing. Hahaha.



The thing about making pasta is that with experience, you shall never be under the tyranny of the recipe. On a whim, I count three or four tomatoes to go to the making of my sauce. No hard and fast rules.



I’ve espoused blanching the tomatoes first, then peeling off the skin and de-seeding them before they are used. But sometimes, a rough dice, with skins and all, doesn’t hurt.



For this meal in minutes, a rough dice would do just fine. The flavor of Malaysian tomatoes does not come close to San Marzano or even Roma, but what it lacks in that department (“flavor” in the context of Italian sauce) it more than makes up for with it meaty flesh.



Making this five nights in a row would surely put a dent on my extra virgin olive oil stash. Here I am, finishing yet again another 500-mL bottle. Fortunately for me though, when Kuya Michele left Singapore at the end of his months-long assignment, he handed down to me ALL his remaining grocery items. There were bottles upon bottles of this golden green culinary jewel of an oil.



The sauce starts with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and cayenne pepper every single time.



Making this is always a two-burner affair. You make the sauce as you boil the pasta away – always 30 seconds less than what the box or package tells you. It’s because I always tip the cook pasta over into the sauce. And they always finish about the same time.



Nothing splatters likes tomatoes. You shall know this once the roughly diced fruit hits the hot oil.



The moment the angel hair is done – in all of one and a half minutes only – I tear the basil leaves on the bubbling sauce. I tumble the pasta on to this and I’m ready to eat.



What I take to my mouth with every bite is a shameless amount. Haha! No wonder that a pound ogf dry pasta lasts me only three servings.



On some nights, I’m so hungry that I see the extra step of plating to be such unbearable delay. So I eat straight from the pan. Anyway, I never would share this. Hahaha!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

La Vita è Bella

10 12 2012
Italian Lunch - Group 04 THANKS Original

The writing on the paper says it all.

MAKING PASTA for Italians is like hitting your head with the biggest rock you picked up on a leisurely stroll on Orchard Turn.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster but you do it just the same,

Not one to back down from a self-imposed challenge, I, along with Kiddo, whipped up an Italian lunch of pasta and risotto for our four dear Italian compadres Michele, Paolo, Claudio and Michele last Saturday.  (Yes, two Micheles.)

We intended to hit a home run – or, going by Italy’s favorite sport – make a goal, so we asked (okay, more like forced) Claudio if we could have the lunch at his place.  I thought, it could’ve at least imbibed by now the essence of the Italian spirit – the flavors borne on the sun-kissed Mediterranean, smacked with the temperament that can only come from the boot-shaped peninsula and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily where the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate meet.

If everything went well, I could charge it to the golden green extra virgin olive oil and the perfumed goodness of basil.  If from the initial sizzle created by garlic hitting hot oil everything went downhill, I would allude to the considerable seismic activity, characteristic of the country, which could wreak havoc on even the best-laid plans.

The planned menu reads prettily on paper and speaks boldness on the part of two Asians who for the most part could’ve just very well been tinkering with one of the most recognizable cuisines in the world.

TheBrenDarryl (recipe here) – 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, in my now-signature Honey–Calamansi Dressing.

Angel Hair Pomodoro (recipes here)

Farfalle alla Genovese (recipe here or here)

Risotto Zafferano (recipe by Kiddo)

To start the meal, we passed around a loaf of ciabatta from a “Milano” bakeshop in Takashimaya, and for dessert, we couldn’t have gone more traditional and Christmas-y than with panettone which I sliced and served with three kinds of gelatocrème brûlée, coffee and vanilla.  Three bottles of red wine were popped through the course of the meal, their origins being a veritable testament to globalization – one came from Chile, another from Australia, and the third one from France.

The day started quite early as Kiddo, Claudio and I agreed to do the groceries at the Cold Storage at Takashimaya the morning of.  What was initially planned to be a dash-and-go turned out to be a surprise gathering as we bumped into Paolo (there for groceries) and Michele (there for breakfast and some takeaway bread).

Italian Lunch - Group 05 Cold Storage

What did you know. We first bumped into Paolo. Then on the way out, we saw Michele.


Italian Lunch - Group 06 Cold Storage

Michele says HI to the camera!


Italian Lunch - Group 07 Cold Storage

Now, let’s try a proper photo. Hehe.

Together, we took that leisurely stroll back to their serviced apartment and I kept my eyes wide open for the biggest rock I could pick up and hit my head with.  Haha!

Italian Lunch - Apartment 00 Chandelier

I fell in love with the lobby of their apartment from the first time I saw it. The chandeliers are nice. Simple lines, wrought iron work, and individual lights that evoke images of votives. Like sending prayers to heaven.


Italian Lunch - Apartment 01 Ceiling

Lovin’ the high ceiling and the skeleton globes.


Italian Lunch - Apartment 02 Lobby

The place is all dressed up for Christmas already. I love that tree.


Italian Lunch - Apartment 03 The West Wing

A part of me expected Martin Sheen to show up at some point.

Once there, Kiddo and I proceeded with all the prep work – peeling, cutting, and slicing – while at the same time turning on all four burners to heat pots and pans, some of which had to be borrowed from Paolo’s and Michele’s places.

Italian Lunch - Solo 01 Cooking

Whenever I cook at other people’s places, I always get this kind of shot. How does this happen? Someone calls out for you, you turn around to acknowledge, then the shutter is set off. I like this one.


Italian Lunch - Food 00 Ingredients

First thing I always do regardless of where I’m cooking is lay down all the ingredients. I pick what I need as I move along with the cooking. The steaks were for Paolo as he doesn’t eat seafood.


Italian Lunch - Food 01 Mushroom Ragout

The mushroom ragout for the Farfalle alla Genovese is done. The two pots on the left are water for the pasta – one for the farfalle, one for the angel hair.


Italian Lunch - Food 03

The food has landed on the table!


Italian Lunch - Food 06 Risotto Zafferano

Kiddo’s Risotto Zafferano


Italian Lunch - Food 05 Angel Hair Pomodoro

Angel Hair Pomodoro, made with only fresh tomatoes. In deference to Claudio’s sensitivity to “uncooked” cheese, I didn’t sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.


Italian Lunch - Food 02 Farfalle alla Genovese

Farfalle alla Genovese


Italian Lunch - Food 07 French Red Wine

The third bottle of red wine that was opened was French.


Italian Lunch - Food 08 French Red Wine

I loved how the label verbiage described the wine. “The wine is expressive and full-bodied yet unpretentious…” Could’ve been describing a person. Haha! Michele did a fine job reading the description in French.


Italian Lunch - Group 08 Lunch

I think lunch went okay. Haha!

More than anything, Kiddo and I wanted to keep the time as much as possible.  It would be a shame to keep guests waiting.  When the clock hit 1:00 PM – the appointed time on our invitation – I closed my eyes for one brief moment and imagined in my head the voice of Padma Lakshmi saying, “Hands up!  Utensils down!”  This meant slashing the salad off of the menu simply because I had yet to assemble the individual plates.

We sat down like one big happy family, expressed our appreciation for the food we were about to share, and just dug in.  Before we were about to finish, Michele and Claudio started asking for the speeches from “the chefs.”  I kept glancing at Kiddo and kept making sheepish grins thinking those would get me off the hook.  But our guests were serious about wanting to hear speeches.  Claudio, having already heard me deliver one at an office event, just wouldn’t let me get away with it scot-free.  I had to speak.

So with an iPhone5 trained at my countenance, I spoke.  It’s always just a good thing to keep on remembering the two lessons (among countless others) from my childhood that have never left me:  I was raised to never talk to strangers.  And to never ever be afraid to express how I feel (in my heart) and what I think (in my head).  So I spoke.  I had to.  I couldn’t put up with pretending not wanting to speak my mind.  Hehe.

Eventually, the Italians responded with their own “speeches.”  The one thing I could never forget from what they said was that by sharing a meal with us – me, Kiddo, and our other Asian friends (Chin Eik, and then Shook Yee, were there too) – they actually express their respect for us and their willingness to be our friends.  I paraphrased but that was essentially it.

After lunch was cleared, it was time to move on to a more pressing concern – to learn to play mahjong.  While Shook Yee, Chin Eik and Kiddo coached Michele, Paolo, Claudio and Michele, I proceeded with preparing the dessert course.  The panettone and gelato were store-bought (Cold Storage Specialty) but they didn’t have to be served looking like they did.  So I reached for Claudio’s pristine bone china pieces from the cupboard, set on each a thinly sliced wedge of panettone, and three rustic scoops of gelato, one each for the crème brûlée, coffee and vanilla.

Italian Lunch - Group 00 Mahjong

For most of us, it was time to learn mahjong! Chin Eik, Paolo, the very lovely Shook Yee, Michele, eNTeNG and Kia Leh (Kiddo).


Italian Lunch - Group 09 Mahjong

Soon enough, the Italians were making a killing at the game. Haha!


Italian Lunch - Friends 00 Claudio Michele

Michele and Claudio celebrate a win by singing Queen’s “We Are The Champions”. Haha!


Italian Lunch - Mahjong 00 Fave Tiles

My favorite mahjong tiles


Italian Lunch - Mahjong 01 Almost Win

An almost win for me


Italian Lunch - Mahjong 02 Win

Finally, a win for me!


Italian Lunch - Mahjong 03 Cheat Sheet

We had a cheat sheet written on the mahjong paper, courtesy of either Shook Yee, Chin Eik, or Kiddo.


Italian Lunch - Food 09 Panettone

Panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas cake, the dessert of choice courtesy of Claudio.


Italian Lunch - Food 10 Panettone with Gelato

Panettone with Gelato Three Ways, ready to be served.


Italian Lunch - Food 11 Panettone with Gelato

Each dessert portion is a thin slice of panettone, with a rustic melange of crème brûlée, coffee and vanilla gelato.

By the time each finished his or her share of cake and gelato, we looked at the leaderboard in shock and awe that one of the Italians, very new to the game, made us bite dust.  Paolo made an unprecedented three-win streak.  Michele (Kuya) chalked up two wins (celebrating one with a rendition of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” together with Claudio), as well as Chin Eik.  I don’t recall how the others fared.  But I do know that Shook Yee won the last game.  And somewhere in between, I walked away with a win too!  Haha!

We spent another hour talking about all things Italian – everybody in the guest list has been to Italy except me – before heading off to Takashimaya for dinner at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s Beanstro.  Around past 11:00 PM, we went on our way back to their place for the final nightcap.

Italian Lunch - Group 05 Elevator

On the elevator ride down, on our way to Takashimaya for a little shopping, coffee, and dinner for me. Haha!


Italian Lunch - Food 12 Beanstro Menu

The BeanSTRO Menu


Italian Lunch - Group 02 CBTL Beanstro

The gang at BeanSTRO by CBTL at Takashimaya


Italian Lunch - Food 15 Beanstro Pasta

My Roast Chicken and Tomato Concasse Pasta


Italian Lunch - Food 16 Biscotti

We brought back some Almond-Chocolate Biscotti from CBTL.

Needless to say, on this third leisurely stroll on Orchard Turn done in the space of one fine day, I was hoping against hope to find the biggest rock to hit my head with.  What was my business making pasta for Italians?  Then I realized I needed not a reality check because in their kind words that peppered the day’s many conversations, I recognized gratitude, appreciation for effort beyond the fruition of perfection, and a tolerance for what one’s best can offer.

I can’t wait for the next get-together.

Italian Lunch - Solo 00 Christmas Tree

Of course I’ve got to have a photo by the Christmas Tree at the lobby.


Italian Lunch - Group 01 Christmas Tree

By the same Christmas Tree, here with Michele, Claudio, Shook Yee, and Kiddo.


Italian Lunch - Solo 02 Lobby

Anywhere there is a mirror. Haha!… As you can see, we had the lobby all to ourselves. This was one of the best late night conversations I have had in a long time.

Copyright © 2012 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

Caramelization and cooking solo

7 04 2012

(Written on 04 April 2012)

Fresh Roma tomatoes sizzling away in a pan. One step to a most perfect sauce!

IT’S 12:25 AM on a Wednesday morning.  I was so excited to finally get my hands on this T-Shirt that apparently can only be purchased in Malaysia, that I decided to have it washed.  Then I will have to pray real hard for it to dry so that I can wear it to the office later.  Now I’m hungry.

The nearest 24-hour McDonald’s is still quite a considerable walk from my place.  And, didn’t I just say it was way past midnight already?  Good thing is, I do know how to cook.  Knowing how to cook has its perks – foremost of which is not having your sustenance at the mercy of somebody else.

And while the thought of cooking for one’s self may sound so solitary, much worse, sad, I actually find it quite a joy.  Especially since you will have yourself to reap the rewards right after.

For tonight, my only resort could only be pasta.  In one sweeping and scooping motion, I’ve got all that I needed – from the chiller: three fresh, crisp Roma tomatoes, and hydroponically grown sweet basil; from the refrigerator shelf: a wedge of Perfect Italiano parmesan cheese; and from the cupboard:  Bertolli extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes and San Remo angel hair pasta.  Oh, there was one more, a bottle of this prepared pasta sauce I suddenly fancied at the grocery shelves the other day – Agnesi Sugo Basilico.  I think it was the “Product of Italy” mark that made me snap it up.

I can whip up angel hair pomodoromy angel hair pomodoro – in my sleep.  Every time, I would find a way to put a twist to it.  Tonight, I suddenly felt the urge to put a char on the fresh tomatoes.  If I had an oven, I would’ve probably roasted them first until they achieve sweet caramelization on the cut surfaces.  For now, the blistering them on a hot pan with a thin film of extra virgin olive oil would do.

I have a sweet spot for this pasta dish.  It’s one of those dishes that helped further develop my confidence in cooking, making me attuned to the rhythms of the kitchen.  Which, at this every late hour, began with the clanking of pots and pans against the burner grill.

For this one, I seeded the tomatoes before peeling them by first charring the skins.

The tomatoes are turned over once, to allow for the cut surfaces to achieve some caramelization.

There's the char I'm looking for!

I've always been partial to parmesan cheese that is shaved or torn. Something really rustic. That is why I would but wedges of cheese instead of pre-grated ones.

Done in a few minutes! Not even ten!

The pasta is al dente. The sauce is really chunky. Just the way I like it.

Agnesi Sugo Basilico Pasta Sauce, a new fave.

Copyright © 2012 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved