In Which Vegetables are Given a Cheesy Spin…


Eat your veg - it's so darned tasty!

I am proud to say that my parents never had any trouble getting me to eat vegetables.  I always found them interesting, even tasty.  However, it wasn’t the same thing as far as my brother and sister were concerned.  Jeff was a picky eater up until the day he entered the seminary (where he figured that fried eggplants with bagoong were quite tasty).  Isabelle, on the other hand, has always had a good appetite but has only begun to eat more veg since she started a diet last month.

At any rate, I was fiddling around in the kitchen yesterday and was inspired by an article on cauliflower written by BBC Good Food editor Barney Desmazeray.  He waxed poetic about lightly steamed caulis garnished with crisp lardons of bacon and of fluffy, pillowy cauliflower cheese on cold evenings.  Given that I just bought a gorgeous head of cauliflower (a gorgeously healthy specimen, as a matter of fact; and at just PhP 39.75 [US$ 0.91] for a half-kilo!) and a quarter-kilo of new potatoes (PhP 19.25 = US$ 0.44), I decided to get cracking.

This dish is a delicious way of getting kids of all ages to eat their veggies.  A scrumptious three-cheese sauce seasoned with pepper and parsley blankets toothsome baby potatoes and crisp-tender cauliflower.  Finely chopped tomatoes scattered on top of the dish towards the end of baking add little nips of sweetness to contrast with the savory sharpness of the sauce.  It’s also a recipe that you can prepare ahead of time; the vegetables, in particular, can be pre-cooked and kept in covered containers in the fridge till needed.  You can also replace the cauliflower and potatoes with broccoli, butternut or kabocha squash, baby carrots, and asparagus.

This makes an excellent vegetarian main dish, especially when paired with a salad of lightly sauteed mushrooms dressed with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar.  It also works as a side dish for roasted or barbecued chicken.

Veg ‘n’ Three

  • 1/2 kilo cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1/4 kilo unpeeled baby/new potatoes, scrubbed of any dirt then halved
  • 1/4 cup green peas
  • 200 grams Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50 grams cream cheese with herbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Edam cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1-1/4 cups full-cream milk
  • 1 medium tomato, deseeded and diced

In a pot of salted water, cook the potatoes until these can easily be pierced with a fork.  Drain and set aside.  Boil the cauliflower in salted water for only five minutes; drain and set aside.

Lightly grease a medium-sized casserole.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Saute the chopped onion till softened.  Add the garlic and half the parsley and cook till fragrant.  Add the peas and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the flour and a dash of pepper; cook until the flour turns brown and smells toasty.  Pour in the milk and cook, whilst stirring constantly, till bubbly and slightly thickened.  Add the Cheddar, cream cheese, and half of the Parmesan or Edam.  Stir until all the cheese has melted.  Remove from heat.

Add the drained vegetables to the cheese sauce.  Stir until all the potatoes and florets are covered with sauce.  Pour into the prepared casserole.  Sprinkle over the remaining parsley and grated Parmesan/Edam.  Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and evenly sprinkle over the diced tomato.  Bake for an additional five minutes.  Remove from oven and serve whilst hot.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side.

In Which We Have Soup Dumplings – Pinoy Style…

Pancit Molo

There is one dish at home that we have specifically for special occasions though we do, sometimes, have it on ordinary days.

This is pancit molo which, despite the name, doesn’t really involve noodles nor is it served dry.  Think of it as Chinese soup dumplings: plump dumplings wrapped in thin dough and boiled in chicken broth.

However, the dumplings for pancit molo are a completely different matter than those prepared as either siomai or gyoza. Those dishes are filled with pork-based forcemeat, mixed with minced shrimp in the former and finely chopped ginger in the latter.  Molo dumplings, however, are made with ground chicken mixed with chives and finely shredded water chestnuts or jicama (singkamas).  These dumplings are also considerably smaller than their steamed counterparts and the wrappers soften into gossamer veils once these are cooked in broth.

With this part of the world enjoying the last chilly evenings before the onset of summer, pancit molo is a welcome sight on the dinner table – a tasty, belly-warming, wholesome treat before the coming of the warmer months and the beginning of Lent.

In Which We Encounter a New Pocky Flavor…

In Katakana on the package: Sweet Pumpkin

I’m a serious Pocky fan.  It’s one of my personal indulgences, really.  However, nothing could have prepared me for the brilliant orange box I saw in the Oriental foods aisle of my favorite supermarket.

It was a box of sweet pumpkin Pocky!

Awwww! It's a Punkin' Fairy!

A box containing a fetching little packet filled with sixteen pretzel sticks covered with pumpkin-flavored white chocolate coating.  Incidentally, it’s written on the box that 2.9% pumpkin puree was used for the flavoring.

Have one...

So, how was it?  Pretty good.  Aroma-wise, you’ll be hit with the rich fragrance of butter – which seriously sent my brain reeling as it was the sort of smell that made me think of a savory potage au parmentier (pumpkin bisque)!

Flavor-wise, it isn’t very sweet but not very pumpkin-y, either.  Nevertheless, the buttery taste of the coating went down a treat with the slightly salty pretzels.

At the back, a silly comic strip involving a happy panda…

I’m not sure I’ll want another box of these, but they sure were an interesting snack.  😀

In Which We Munch on the Other KFC…

Hello! What's in the box?

On the streets of Seoul, it is referred to as yangneom dak which specifically states that the chicken was fried twice: once to blanch it to let the coating adhere better to its surface and again to make it gorgeously crispy on the outside and magnificently succulent inside.

For the rest of the world, it is known simply as the other KFCKorean fried chicken.

Here in the Philippines, BBQ Chicken and BOOR were among the first to appear on the scene.  (I’ve never blogged about it, but I can assure you that the rice syrup chicken at BBQ rocks!)  But it’s Bonchon Chicken – the newest kid on the block – that’s been getting some serious rave reviews.

A small order of Chicken Chops

Seeing how Bonchon’s Ayala Triangle branch was just a hop, skip, and a jump away from my office (quite literally, as a matter of fact!), I decided to get a small order of their Chicken Chops (P 180.00 for four pieces) on the way home.

Chicken Chops are breast fillets that are first blanched in oil, rolled in a savory coating, then fried till crisp.  While still hot, the cooked chicken is tossed into one’s choice of either sweet or spicy soy-garlic sauce.  (The same principle also applies to drumsticks and wings.)

The thing about Korean fried chicken is that it’s a di pronto mangia – eat immediately – sort of thing.  It’s the only way you can appreciate the crunch and taste.  Otherwise, as shown above, it goes all limp.  You can pan-fry it when you get home; it’ll still be good, but it would certainly be lacking in character.

Admittedly, it is good.  However, I’m starting to wonder what all the hype about it is really all about.