In Which Tuna Becomes More Appealing…

Tuna Loin Steak and sauteed veg

The fitness crazies in this part of the world have been hard-selling tuna as a “super meat” – low in fat, high in protein, and all that dross.  I don’t buy it, though.

I confess that I have no great love for canned tuna.  While I grew up eating it in sandwiches and still occasionally have it in a breakfast frittata, I don’t see what all the hype is about.  The flavor does nothing for me, the texture even less so.  And please don’t ever let me get started on that hideous-tasting corned tuna the bigger canneries have been flogging.  If said corned product does not come from a bovine, I am definitely not eating it.

Fresh tuna, on the other hand, is a completely different story all together.  Served raw, it’s tender and flavorful without being too fishy.  When cooked, it is toothsome, meaty, even buttery-tasting.

O-toro, chu-toro, and maguro cuts as sashimi, maki, or sushi are among my favorites, as is that tempting tempura tuna sashimi tartare served at Teriyaki Boy.  When I was a fresh-faced college grad a bit over a decade ago, Tokyo Tokyo’s buttery tuna misono with its nutty-tasting sauce made with soy sauce and fresh garlic was my payday indulgence.

A few weeks ago, I had a slab of grilled tuna loin, as shown above, with a side of properly sauteed veg.  It came with a small dish filled with a soy and toasted garlic dip which kept the tuna from getting too dry.  It was quite tasty, I must say.  It won’t be replacing pork or beef on my lunch plate on a permanent basis any time soon, but it was still a deliciously done dish.

Pesang Tuna

More appropriate for the stormy, blustery, wet weather we’ve been having was the pesang tuna served at my brother’s parish for lunch last Sunday.  Reminiscent of nilagang baka (beef cooked with cabbage and potatoes in a clear broth), large tuna fillets were poached in a clear, peppery broth with cabbage and a bit of ginger to remove any off odors or flavors.  The end result was a warming soup  that wasn’t too rich but was nevertheless hearty – certainly a better meal than any you can think of involving canned tuna.

One other thing: just because football hero Phil Younghusband or hottie Derek Ramsey are selling the product with their respective strumpet-starlets does not mean you’ll end up as hot-looking or as sexy as any of them.  Just saying…


In Which Asian Ingredients Make Their Way Into Doughnuts…

Muscovado and mochiko doughnuts

The doughnuts in today’s post look like ordinary ones, but there’s something a bit different about them.  For one thing, while these were made using the standard procedure for making cake doughnuts, the ingredients are strikingly different.

These treats were made with local muscovado sugar which gives a richer, molasses-like flavor and a subtle sweetness to the finished product.  Plus, I replaced part of the flour with glutinous rice flour or mochiko.  This resulted in some rather hefty doughnuts with an excellent flavor.  They’re rather stodgy, so they go well with milky mugs of coffee or tea for a very satisfying breakfast.

Muscovado and Mochiko Doughnuts

  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup mochiko (glutinous rice flour)
  • 2/3 cup muscovado sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • oil for deep-frying
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Sift together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon and make a well in the center.  Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and the 1/4 cup olive oil.  Pour into the well in the dry ingredients and mix until a stiffish dough forms.  Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to an hour.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/2 an inch thick and cut out doughnuts using a floured cutter.

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan and fry up the doughnuts in batches.  Makes about 1-1/2 dozen, plus munchkins.

Variations…  Use 1 teaspoon lemon flavoring and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger instead of the vanilla and cinnamon to give your doughnuts a more Oriental twist.  Or, you can keep the vanilla but replace the cinnamon with 1 teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds.

In Which Breakfast is Spruced Up with Avocados…

Cheesy Avo Melties

We’re in the thick of the avocado season in this part of the world and I’m enjoying every second and every bit of it!

Most Filipinos prefer to have their avos sweet as smoothies.  It’s a relatively easy thing to make, too: just bung peeled and seeded ripe avocados in a blender with sugar, milk, and ice.  Blitz till totally liquefied, pour into glasses – end of story.  Some people, like my dad, prefer to simply sprinkle sugar over ripe avocado halves and just spoon the creamy pulp out of the shell.

While I do love avocado smoothies and I was partial to avocado sherbet as a kid (just freeze an avo smoothie; scrape out with a fork or a large metal spoon like a granita to serve), I now prefer a savory touch to my avocados.  That said, I’d rather eat them in salads, mash them up for salsa, or puree them for guacamole.  They’re also a deliciously healthy alternative to mayonnaise for BLT sandwiches; there’s just something about the salty, smoky character of bacon that goes perfectly with the creamy, bittersweet avocados.

And there’s this nifty little number I nosh on for breakfast: cheesy avocado melties.  These are my personal take on bruschetta: crisply toasted baguette slices are topped with fresh avo and either mild cheddar or – my personal favorite – aged Edam slices.  Pop these into a microwave and cook till the cheese melts – et voila!  Breakfast is sorted out and it’s both healthy and tasty.  You can also add some rubbed sage to these open-faced sandwiches to add an extra dimension of flavor.

Cheesy Avo Melties

  • 1/2 a ripe, medium-sized avocado, peeled, seeded, and sliced
  • 2 slices off a baguette
  • 4 slices mild cheddar or aged Edam/Gouda
  • 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage (optional)

Evenly distribute the sliced avocado on top of the sliced baguettes.  If desired, sprinkle over the rubbed sage.  Top with the sliced cheese.  If using a toaster oven, cook for about three minutes or till the cheese melts.  If using a microwave, set on HIGH and cook for 30 – 45 seconds till the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 1.

In Which the Blogger Takes French Silk Pie to the Next Level of Madness…

Ganache? Yes, please!

I learned how to make ganache early last year.  It was a relatively simple thing, this glorious amalgam of dark chocolate and fresh cream, but the rewards were great.  I’ve used it for truffles, used it as cake frosting, fudge sauce over ice cream when fresh off the hob, even fondue.

French silk pie, on the other hand, is something I’ve been making for over a decade now, if somewhat sporadically.  There is just something glorious about it, something incredibly satisfying – both in making it and eating it.  However, my primary issue about French silk pie is that its a tad too rich even for an unrepentant glutton like myself.  The recipe I’ve used for years involves a lot of eggs, butter, and sugar.

I think, however, that I’m going to start making it more often as I’ve hit on an idea that has definitely turned me into one seriously happy camper.

Think ganache – think ganache tart.  Yes, with a shortbread crust, as a matter of fact!

Looks tempting, doesn't it?

While the tart shown above isn’t one of mine, it’s the usual thing that springs to mind when people talk about French silk pies: a thin, flaky, standard-issue shortcrust pastry base with a fudge filling.  Mine, on the other hand, is a bit more decadent but isn’t as cloying as the original.

Seeing how I finished my online novel Puck and Ginger last week, I thought about doing a recipe that my main character Ginger Algarme would prepare in La Reinette, her patisserie.  The end result was a scrumptious chocolate tart delicately scented with lavender in the crust and rose in the filling.

This dessert’s name was inspired by the name of Puck and Ginger’s band, Reckless Imprudence.  Why?  Well, if you get too recklessly generous with the helpings on this rich treat, it would definitely be an imprudent move.  ;D

Reckless Imprudence Tart

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup soft margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup lavender sugar, sifted
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon lavender tincture
  • 1 egg yolk
For the Filling:
  • 300 grams dark chocolate, broken up
  • 3 tablespoons rose tincture or rosewater
  • 250mL all-purpose cream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.  Grease a 9-inch pie plate or slip-bottomed tart pan; set aside.

Cream the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and lavender tincture; mix until well combined.  Sift in the cornstarch, then the flour in 1/4 cup batches.  Mix until a soft dough is achieved.

Press the dough evenly into the prepared pie plate, you might not need all of it, though.  Trim the dough at the edges.  Prick the sides and base of the crust.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before sliding onto a serving plate.  Set aside.

Make the filling by combining the cream and chocolate in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till the chocolate has all melted.  Remove from heat and add the tincture or rosewater, stirring well.  Pour into the baked crust and allow to cool completely.

Chill at least four hours or overnight prior to serving.

This is quite rich, so serve the tart in thin slices with a good, rich coffee.

Serves 12 – 14.

In Which Supermarket Snacks Get a Serious Upgrade…

Strawberry Yotte with tapioca pearls

When I was about five or six years old, a trip to the supermarket usually meant a frosty Icee slushie on the way out of the store on the way home.  A bit later on, when the original South Supermarket in Magallanes put in a fancy-pants bakery, supermarket trips were never complete without ham and cheese turnovers in puff pastry or fat, buttery croissants just out of the oven.

Today’s grocery shoppers, however, are rather spoiled for choice when it comes to post-shopping nosh.  There are dumpling-and-rice stalls at the exit, shawarma and takoyaki kiosks, specialty bakeries that offer Taiwanese or HK-style savory breads topped with pork floss or stuffed with sticky-sweet char siu, taho (tau fu far – silken tofu served in a warm syrup with pearl tapioca) outlets stand alongside cheap cheesesteak stands.  You have the bits-and-pieces stalls with their bowls of salty garlic peanuts, kornik (deep-fried corn kernels), crunchy peas, and sweet-salty anchovies; you’ve the rotisserie that offers take-away roast chicken, pork loin, and that sinful pork belly with the tender meat and crunchy yet melt-in-your-mouth good crackling.  The rotisserie will also offer such sundries as fusion maki which maximizes the burnt ends of meat from the grills, a spanking-good yaki-udon, and even rice meals.

And now, there are even tea stands.

Peach Yottea with bits of fruit...

That’s right.  If you’re a fan of, say, Quickly or Serenitea, there’s a reasonable facsimile flogging tea-based sippers over at SM Supermarkets called Tea Delite.

You can get a straight-up iced green tea with a hint of citrus to it on a hot day, or you can add any of the usual litany of fruit-syrup (made with real fruit; quite a surprise, really…) add-ons and possibly skip green tea altogether and go for black tea cut with chilled milk for a classic boba nai cha (milk tea with tapioca pearls) – possibly with a touch of chocolate, vanilla, or caramel syrup if you so fancy.

My favorite grab at Tea Delite is, however, the Yottea.  Yotteas are chilled green tea drinks with a shot of fruit syrup and a generous splash of liquid yogurt.  The end result is refreshingly tart, delicately sweet, creamy, even soothing especially at the end of a busy day.

Tea Delite actually posts a list of what fruit goes with what your health needs and I guess I’m just lucky that my two favorite fruits are just what my body needs: peach for improved digestion or strawberry to fight stress.  The peach has a lovely, almost floral fragrance to it and tastes like liquefied mango pudding for some odd yet delightful reason.  The strawberry is like commercial strawberry yogurt with a heady fragrance that will throw you back to the Meiji Strawberry Yan-Yan snacks from your childhood: tart and just sweet enough to keep you sipping.

Tea Delite’s Yotteas are quite reasonably priced, as well: P 55.00 for a large as shown above and P 65.00 for an extra-large one.  Additional tapioca or nata de coco cubes or flavor pearls are P 7.00 per tablespoon.

It's not what it seems...

To go with your Yottea, how about a pancit siopao?  The snack stalls over at SM began selling these quirky buns a couple months ago for P 30.00 each and they’re fairly popular.

Yes, each and every bun looks like one of those typical fried mantou served with a small dish of condensed milk over at North Park.  In fact, it’s pretty much made with the same dough.  But that’s as far as the similarities go, because…

Noodles - and is that a...banana?!?

…it’s filled with sauteed rice noodles, some pork and veg, and a slice of – good grief! – banana.  I have no idea why that slice of banana is in there, but it makes a fairly filling snack.  😉