In Which There Were Lobsters at the Dinner Table…

(Cue the intro to the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster” here)

Lobster is a word that evokes totally elegant meals eaten in the lap of luxury. You can actually imagine the likes of Diamond Jim Brady, the Rockefellers, & goodness knows how many personalities who have supped elegantly upon these massive crustaceans.

Here in the Philippines, though, lobster is a seasonal delicacy, popular during the summer, & – if you know where to get proper ones – can be quite reasonably priced.

The scarlet beasties shown above were contributed by a family friend to a potluck. These small lobbies were simply boiled in seasoned water & served with a vinegar & sweet onion dip. Though a little tough, the meat from the tails was sweet & delectable; just the sort of thing that evoked the goodness of summer produce.

In Which There is a Rolled-up Spin on Pizza…

Stromboli

Stromboli

This is what happens when you find yourself bored to death on a summer evening when you’re supposed to do the cooking at home: you take one of your staple recipes, prepare it the usual way until about two or three steps to the end, and then do something totally mad with it.

In this case, I wanted to make a pizza for dinner – and ended up rolling it into another Italian treat: stromboli.  Stromboli is similar to a calzone in the sense that it involves pizza dough encasing a savoury filling.  However, unlike a calzone, stromboli is rolled into a cylinder before being sliced into spiral-patterned bites.  That said, any leftovers are easily tucked into lunchboxes the following day for nifty snacks or light lunches.

The recipe here is how I usually do stromboli, but feel free to throw in your preferred fillings and sauces.

Roll it out, spread on the sauce, layer on the toppings, roll it up...

Roll it out, spread on the sauce, layer on the toppings, roll it up…

Stromboli

  • 500 grams all-purpose flour
  • 300 mL water
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil or rendered ham fat or lard
  • 1 sachet fast-acting yeast
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup commercially prepared pasta sauce, halved
  • 1/4 cup salty ham, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup diced pork sausage
  • 1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems and caps sliced thinly
  • 1 red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced thinly
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese, halved
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, yeast, and herbs.  Heat the water and oil together in a heatproof bowl for a minute and a half on HIGH in the microwave.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the water mixture.  Mix until well-combined.  Knead for ten to twelve minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Cover with a clean dishcloth and allow to rise in a draft-free area for an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees / Gas Mark 7.

Remove the dishcloth from the risen dough.  Divide the dough into two.  Cover one half of the dough, then roll out the other half onto a floured surface into a rectangle approximately 1/2-inch thick.  Spread over half the pasta sauce, then evenly scatter over half the toppings and half the cheese.  Roll up from the broad end and place on a baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients.  Leave to prove for 20 – 30 minutes; then brush the surface of the rolls with the eggwash.

Bake for ten minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees / Gas Mark 5 and bake an additional fifteen minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for about two to three minutes before slicing.  Slice the rolls into twelve portions each.

Makes 24 stromboli.

In Which We Celebrate TEN Years of Midge in the Kitchen

A Sakura Soy & Ginger FIsh Bento Tray

Food should be present for EVERY celebration

In April 2005, I was working as a technical writer for an antivirus developer in Eastwood City over in Libis.  At the time, I’d recently been diagnosed with a form of bipolar personality disorder and was horrendously depressed at losing my job at an international aid agency and being told off – yet again – by someone whom I’d grown unaccountably fond of.  It was, to be perfectly honest about this whole thing, not the best time to be alive for me; everything was falling apart, everything was too heavy to bear, and it did not help that I felt that everyone hated me or despised me.

Because of this, I found myself drawn towards blogging.  It pretty much became an outlet for me to be able to cope with all the issues I was dealing with at the time.  But what was I going to write about?  Goodness knows that, at the time, I had serious doubts about my abilities as a writer; as in no one took me seriously about my writing.  Honestly, it began to look that I did not, at the time, have a future in writing.

So I began writing about food.  It was a fairly safe topic and one that I’d always been fond of.  It helped that, at the time, I had found my groove when it came to baking and cooking.  I was developing a reputation for being a fairly good baker and had, to a certain extent, mastered some of the more basic viands intrinsic to any cook’s repertoire.

It proved to be the therapy I needed: I was able to forget my problems, fluff off my issues, and get more focused.  First, it was restaurant reviews: cheap or indulgent eats in the vicinity of Eastwood City, Robinson’s Galleria, and the Shangri-la Plaza over in Mandaluyong where I’d cross EDSA on the way home at night.  Then, it became something of a grocery update where I’d feature new products or particularly interesting eats from far-off lands.  But, most of all, it became a recipe resource, something of an online cookbook where I could share recipes – adapted from other sources or original treats – with the world.  While I haven’t exactly been regular with updating the blog, it continues to be my refuge online – though now it shares time and space with the blog where I post poetry and prose to see if anyone actually reads my work.  It is my culinary laboratory, my sounding board, my outlet.

Ten years have passed since this blog took its baby steps via the blog widget on Friendster.  It has moved URLs thrice since then, finally settling in with WordPress around seven or eight years ago.

In the time that has passed since Sybaritic Diversions first went online, since the day I changed the name to Midge in the Kitchen, so much has happened: friends have gone, gotten married, had kids; some, unfortunately, split up with their partners.  Some have moved abroad; some, alas, have passed away – including my oldest friend who died of an aneurysm last year at the tender age of 37.  My father retired from over 30 years in his career, my mother found herself dragooned into being an officer for her church ministry; my brother was ordained into the priesthood, my sister finished college and is now a practicing RN.

As for me, I left my job as a technical writer not too long after I started blogging, found myself set adrift for a while, then took another techwriting post at a software development firm.  I would return to my true metier, advertising and public relations, in 2009: I would stick to one firm for nearly four years, try my hand at finishing a novel (and I did!), work for a bit in corporate communications (and totally regret it), before joining another ad agency in September of last year.  Don’t ask about my love life, though: it remains complicated to the present day, but let’s just say that I find some measure of fulfilment baking for someone…and leave it at that.  😉

And so, ten years have passed – and I am pretty sure there are many, many more culinary adventures to be had in the years to come.

In Which Lunch was Rustic Yet Deliciously Decadent…

Definitely my kind of lunch!

Definitely my kind of lunch!

Binagoongang baboy – pork braised in soy, vinegar, and garlic then sauteed in pungent bagoong [fermented shrimp paste / nam prik] – has long been one of my favourite dishes and also happens to be my idea of comfort food.  There are a number of ways by which it is prepared and, likewise, a number of styles in which it is presented.

My favourite version of the dish is the one known as crispy binagoongan.  Here, the braised pork is first deep-fried to crunchy, golden-brown perfection before being tossed into sauteed bagoong which has been cooked down to a saucy sludge with red onions, fresh garlic, and diced tomatoes.  The resulting dish features a scrumptious variety of textures, flavours, and aromas: the pork is tender in spots yet the crackling skin shatters audibly when you take a bite; the pungent natural scent of the shrimp paste becomes milder, more savoury thanks to the addition of aromatics and the fruitiness of the tomatoes; the saltiness is tempered by the sweetness of the pork, the slight bitterness of the charred parts of the crackling, the sharpness of onion and garlic, and the acidity of the tomato.

That said, Mozu Cafe Bar’s spin on my favourite dish may just be in the running to become my favourite meal.  Their crispy binagoongan set (P 190.00) features a generous portion of braised-then-fried pork dressed with a grainy spin on the traditional bagoong gravy, a sour green mango salsa, and a scoop of hot rice.  Fried eggplant adds a pleasant smoky bitterness and the creamy texture of the eggplant pulp goes beautifully against the crunch of the fried pork and the crisp, unripe mango.  If you want additional heat, this plate also comes with a green chile to chop up and mix into the bagoong which has an appealing hint of sweetness.  (Oh, and the bagoong also doubles as a dressing that turns your salsa into a nice side salad!)  Definitely a meal with which to spoil one’s self.  🙂

Mozu Cafe Bar: 31st St. cor. 2nd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

In Which Brunch Had a Neighbourly Spin…

Not quite your usual coffee joint

Not quite your usual coffee joint

It’s been ages since I’ve hung out in Makati – months, as a matter of fact.  Relocating to the Bonifacio Global City has opened up a lot of new culinary experiences, but I’ve missed the place where I started my career in advertising, where I spent the bulk of my career.  Since I was out running an errand for the office in Legaspi Village this morning, it gave me the opportunity to grab a bite at one of the new third-wave cafes that have sprung up in the area.  And I was not disappointed.

Brunch anyone?

Brunch anyone?

Local Edition is one such cafe.  Small, homey yet hip, it is representative of the newer sort of coffee bar: definitely no part of any chains, foreign or local; emphasis on fresh brews for both coffee and tea; both drinks and dishes are prepared just as you order them (no stale meals here!); and a focus on local purveyors.  And believe me when I say it’s all good.

The breakfast bagel (P 215.00) is one example.  You get a just-prepped chive omelet and a slice of ham tucked into a nice, chewy flour bagel.  Properly toasted and dressed with a tangy mayonnaise, it makes for a filling brunch.  And the addition of fresh orange and apple slices adds a healthy touch.

A flat white is always a lovely thing...

A flat white is always a lovely thing…

But the real treat here is the coffee.  A freshly-brewed flat white (P 155.00 for a large) is just the thing you need to get some energy.  Made with Local Edition’s signature Perea Brew blend, it is just strong enough to wake you up but not so strong as to get you all wired.  The bitterness and acidity are balanced just so and the addition of milk makes this creamy, smooth, and just faintly sweet…just the way I like my coffee.

Now, really, I wish they’d open a branch in my neck of the woods, but that would take away much of this coffee bar’s charm.  That said, I’ll be happy to pop in again…well, soon as I find myself running another office errand in Makati!

Local Edition Coffee and Tea: 116 Perea St., Legaspi Village, Makati