Sunday, April 30, 2006

Recipe: Steamed Fish Filet with Scallions & Ginger

4 tilapia filet
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine, dry white wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil + 1 tbsp
5 scallions, chopped, including green part

Mix ginger, soy sauce, rice wine and 1 tsp sesame oil in a small bowl. Place filets in a plate and pour sauce over. Top with scallions. Steam for 10 - 15 minutes.

Before serving drizzle 1 tbsp of remaining sesame oil over fish.

Recipe: Bamboo Shoot & Mushroom Stir-Fry

bamboo shoot, drained
garlic, chopped
oyster mushroom
camote tops (or any greens such as spinach)
Bragg's amino acid or soy sauce
vegetable oil (I use virgin coconut oil)

Cook garlic in hot oil, do not brown. Add mushroom, cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Add bamboo shoot, season with Bragg's, cover for 2 minutes on medium low heat. Add greens and remove from heat.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Recipe: Arugula Salad

arugula leaves, washed and dried
cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
extra-virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
parmesan cheese

Toss arugula with oil until leaves are lightly coated. Add tomatoes and drizzle with vinegar (oil to vinegar ratio 3:1), toss to combine. Top with shavings of parmesan cheese or toss in several teaspoons of grated parmesan cheese.

* To make parmesan shavings: Use a vegetable peeler and "shave" cheese like you would peel a vegetable.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Recipe: Mussel & Arugula Brown Rice Salad

I purchased a bottle of cooked mussels in oil from my supplier of natural and organic processed products. The mussels come in 3 flavors - garlic, hot & spicy, and plain. All the mussels have a sweetish flavor due to the sugar used in cooking it. I thought it went perfectly with the arugula and Kalinga rice mix which I had in hand to make a quick lunch. I've used brown rice and the rice mix in making this salad and they're both delicious. The nutty rice, sweet mussels and spicy arugula turned out to be a good combination of flavors.

Take equal amounts of torn arugula and cooked brown rice or Kalinga rice (or you may make your own combination of 3 different kinds of rice varieties to make a rice mix). Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and toss. Top with mussels.

A good substitute for the mussels would be a sweet chili or sweet garlic shrimp saute. Hmmm, I'll try that next time...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Recipe: Muscovado Lemongrass Iced Tea

This recipe is an improvement of my first recipe for lemongrass iced tea.

1 cup chopped lemongrass, cleaned, discarding tough outer leaves; use white and light green parts only (discard tough green part or you may use it to stuff a roast chicken)
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
8 cups water

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool. Strain into a pitcher and discard solids. Cover pitcher and refrigerate. Serve with or without ice.

A Niche Market

I am passionate about organic food because I believe in health and I want to save the environment (baby steps). I'm hoping more people become aware of the dangers of conventional agriculture to their personal health, to the environment and to society as a whole. Failing to reach others intellectually or emotionally, there's always the flavor of conventionally grown produce compared to ones organically-grown. Organic food taste a LOT better. It's a world of difference. I was first and foremost a lover of good food and eventually I became concerned about the state of the environment. In my studies I learned of the connection between the environment and the food we eat which led me to start an organic garden last year. So far there have been few ups and many downs.

Yesterday I joined the Organic Market for the 3rd time. I had vine-ripened red cherry tomatoes, Italian arugula, chrysanthemum leaves, mustard greens, flat-leaf parsley, lemongrass and scallions. Well, I made enough to pay for the stall I rented and buy some groceries for myself but I'm beginning to have doubts about this venture. It doesn't seem to me like there are enough people out there who want to eat organic food. Also, the market is only open on Sundays which is a rest day in this country. I asked Mara, our organizer, and she said the "powers that be" won't allow the market to open on Saturdays because there is already a Saturday market going on. Completely ridiculous and a decision based on that premise should be illegal! But frankly I don't know what to do about it. So I told myself that we just have to make do with what we've got. Which is Sunday 7am to 2pm. Luckily, I don't give up easily and I've come up with some ideas to attract people over on Sundays. I will write about it if all goes well, or doesn't, but right now it's still forming in my head.

The other problem I'm having at the moment is that I am not producing enough to tap a wider market. The problem isn't a lack of land area but the people I'm dealing with. Mistakes made in agriculture has big and time consuming repercussions. So its a slow process when things don't go right. One of my farmers misunderstood me and cut off all the branches and most of the leaves off my fruiting cherry tomato plants. Needless to say, the plants are now dying. Bloody idiot. After having to calm down for a couple of days, I thought of a way for this to never happen again. All instructions I give will be written down on the whiteboard before I leave the farm. I also gave each farmer something that he alone is responsible for. Hopefully I've organized things so the farm will run more smoothly.

On the up side, I've been cooking more than usual with all the vegetables I have on hand. Eating something I've grown and knowing how fresh and toxin-free my fruits and vegetables are gives me a sense of well-being. And the flavors are truly astonishing after eating bland tomatoes and not-so-fresh produce for a year. This morning I made some lemongrass iced tea using fresh lemongrass from my farm and organic muscovado sugar instead of regular granulated sugar. Yum!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sugar High Friday - Liquors

I love cooking with liquors! And I'll be doing just that for Sugar High Fridays. Yes, I'm joining another food blogging event. The theme this month is "Liquors", hosted by Chandra of Lick The Spoon. Sugar High Fridays was started by Jennifer of Domestic Goddess who chooses the host for this monthly event. Joining these events gives me the chance to try out recipes from my embarrassingly large library of cookbooks. Embarrassing because I haven't used most of the books. I read them like novels and off they go to the bookshelf never to be opened again. So here I give them new life.

I'll be baking a Guinness Stout Ginger Cake from the book The Last Course by Claudia Fleming and Melissa Clark. I used San Miguel Cerveza Negra instead of Guinness Stout because I couldn't find any at the grocery. So this should actually be called Cerveza Negra Ginger Cake. Cerveza Negra is Spanish for dark beer.

I used virgin coconut oil for this recipe because I thought the flavor of coconut would go well with the spices and ginger. The cake turned out really well and the smells emanating from the kitchen while it was baking... well, you know what I'm talking about.

One thing I would change when I make this cake again is to use a nonstick baking pan and forgo buttering and dusting the loaf pan with flour. The cake had streaks and patches of flour when I turned it over a serving plate. Although, it did not affect the flavor of the cake it didn't look appetizing.

Cerveza Negra Ginger Cake

1 cup Cerveza Negra
1 cup molasses
1/2 tbsp baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup muscovado sugar or brown sugar
3/4 cup virgin coconut oil or grapeseed oil or vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp grated, peeled fresh gingerroot

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour a loaf pan or bundt pan.

Pour beer and molasses in a large saucepan. Make sure its large because the mixture will foam up and spill over. Bring it to a boil. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. This mixture will foam up again after adding the baking soda so I can't stress enough using a large pan to do this in.

Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom together in a bowl.

Whisk the eggs and sugars together in another bowl. Add oil and whisk until well combined.

Pour the egg mixture into the beer mixture and whisk well.

Pour half of the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly. It will get stiff, continue whisking until its well combined. Pour in the rest of the liquid mixture and slowly whisk to combine.

Pour batter into prepared loaf or bundt pan and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.

I served slices of this cake with dulce de leche ice cream.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Recipe: Egg Sandwich

This sandwich is a variation of one my sister often makes. It is soooo good.

You boil an egg. Peel and slice it. Quarter a bunch of cherry tomatoes and toss it with a finely chopped scallion, use the white and green parts. Spread some Japanese mayonaisse on two pieces of bread. On one piece place the sliced egg, top the egg with a sheet of nori (seaweed used to wrap sushi), then top the nori with the cherry tomato salad and top this with the remaining piece of bread. Enjoy!

A Poem

I came across this poem this morning and liked it a lot.

Time to plant trees is when you're young,
So you will have them to walk among -
So, aging, you can walk in shade
That you and time together made.
X.J. Kennedy

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hot Weather

The weather nowadays is wilting my poor plants. It is so hot, I've had to put nets all over the farm to shield the plants form the intense heat. Despite the stifling weather my tomatoes are fruiting nicely. The herbs, mustard greens and arugula are also doing well, even without the nets. The problem is the soil dries much faster so we have to water more often and the leaves of the fruiting plants droop and some turn brown. The netting should shield the plants from to much sun. One thing that's thriving in this heat are the African Marigolds. I had more of the marigolds seeded and will plant them in borders. These marigolds are also edible so I'm eager to try them on salads and use them to decorate sweets. What I'm having a hard time with are the peppers and eggplant and the problem has nothing to do with the heat. These plants bear one fruit at a time and take a long time for even that one fruit to come about. I figured it is from the way the pants are being watered. The pepper and eggplant plants do bear numerous flowers but then come to bear single fruits. I think the farmers probably water the flowers off, so I gave instructions to water only the ground around the plants and not the tops. Hope that works. Being in the farming business certainly teaches one a lot of patience.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Recipe: Italian Vegetable Soup

I made vegetable soup for Easter lunch together with a Roast Leg of Lamb, Mashed Potatoes and Cheesecake with Passionfruit Sauce. Of course I took a picture of everything, including the bouquet of flowers, and forgot to take one of the soup. Anyway, here's the recipe.

Italian Vegetable Soup

4 stalks celery (the small kind) or 1 stalk of the large celery, sliced thin
1 carrot, quartered lengthwise then sliced thin
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 radish, diced
10 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dried cheese ravioli
8 Italian plum tomatoes in can, crushed

Grated Parmesan cheese

Bring broth to a boil. Add celery and carrot, simmer for 1 minute. Add zucchini, radish and tomato, simmer for 10 minutes. Add cheese ravioli and continue to simmer until pasta is done. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Good Friday in Town

A friend and I went walking around the village last night after drinking tea and munching on oatmeal raisin cookies all afternoon. I took pictures of a once-a-year phenomenon in the city of Makati. Empty streets and sidewalks.

This is Greg walking infront of me.

A full moon.

I didn't realize how lovely the city is. The absence of loud noise, traffic and swarms of people shows the city in a new light.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Recipe: Century Egg Salad

I have always liked century eggs. Even as a child when most children were squimish about eating the black and grey egg that was a hundred years old. I actually believed it took a hundred years for the egg to turn that way, hence the name century egg. Of course it doesn't, if it did it would be in a museum and not on the dinner plate!

You will need some Chinese cabbage, also called Napa cabbage, 1 century egg per person and Miso Dressing. Very simple recipe, quick to prepare and satisfying. The crunchy cabbage and miso dressing goes well with the bite size pieces of century egg.

Cook the century egg the way you would for a hard boiled chicken egg, leaving the outer layer of hardened brown clay on. Then peel the way you would an ordinary boiled egg.

Sliced the cabbage crosswise into thin strips. Then slice the egg in half and quarter each half.

Fill a bowl with half of the cabbage, drizzle with miso dressing (not too much, it could get too salty), top with the rest of the cabbage and century egg. Drizzle with more dressing.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Spice Is Right: Ancient Spices: Star Anise

I’m participating in a food blog event for the first time. This event, called “The Spice is Right” is hosted by Barbara Fisher of Tigers & Strawberries and its theme for this month is Ancient Spices. This event will occur monthly.

I chose the spice star anise as my entry and will be cooking and posting a recipe from Food & Wine magazine for Star Anise Pork. I’ve had a package of star anise in my cupboard for awhile now and have been meaning to use it but never came around to it. When I came across this event I thought now is my chance to experiment with star anise in terms of flavor as I’ve never had a dish using this particular spice. Although this is a common spice in the Philippines and can be found in any grocery, it is not commonly used in native Philippine dishes. It is more commonly used in Chinese dishes. Although the Chinese are a minority, 1% of the population, they are an important segment of Phil. society and so it is quite common to find Chinese ingredients in grocery stores and markets. Globally, star anise is used in Asian, European, English and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Star anise has the flavor of licorice or anise and can be used for sweet or savory dishes. I found so many dishes on the net using star anise, it was hard to decide! In my enthusiasm I thought of doing an entire 4-course dinner based on star anise but the rules of this event specifically stated entering only one entry. There’s always next month…

I substituted vegetable stock for chicken stock, rice wine for the sherry and muscovado sugar for brown sugar.

Star Anise Pork
serves 6

1/2 cup vegetable stock from boullion cubes (I used mushroom broth granules)
1/4 cup rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp tightly packed muscovado sugar
3 whole star anise pods
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
One 3-pound boneless pork shoulder, tied
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

Mix together the rice wine, soy sauce, muscovado sugar, star anise, garlic and five-spice powder.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Browned all over on medium high heat for about 15 minutes. Add the sauce mixture and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the casserole. Cover tightly and cook over low heat for about 3 hours, turning the roast every 30 minutes, until very tender. Add water if the sauce begins to dry up.

Remove the pork and boil the sauce until it is reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Discard the strings. Pull the pork into long shreds and return to the casserole.

Garnish with the cilantro and serve with either mashed potatoes, polenta, congee, in a burrito or in a sandwich with mayonaisse.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Recipe: Fish Filet with Green Salad & Miso Dressing

A simple low-carb dinner. The greens were picked from my farm this morning, I used arugula and Shinjuku chrysanthemum leaves. The dressing is a combination of several recipes. Next time I will add some cherry tomatoes to the salad greens.

Miso Dressing

1/4 cup yellow miso paste
3 tbsp muscovado sugar
3 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp hot water
2 tsp Bragg's amino acid (or light soy sauce)
1/4 tsp expeller pressed toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic

Place all ingredients in a wide rimmed bottle and shake well to combine. This makes around 1 cup of dressing.

Salad Greens

mixed salad
cold pressed grapeseed oil(or any unrefined cold pressed vegetable oil)

Toss greens with oil, using just enough to lightly coat the leaves.

Just before serving, toss salad greens with some miso dressing.

Fish Filet

1 tilapia fish filet
egg, beaten
unbleached flour

unrefined vegetable oil for frying (I used virgin coconut oil)

Dredge filet in flour, patting out excess. Dip in beaten egg then coat with more flour.

Fry fish in hot oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes each side.

Serve with salad greens.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My New Blog

I finished the 10-day fast (plus 3 days extra to wean myself to eating solids) five days ago and I feel great! I don't know if its the effects of the fast but I decided to revamp my blog. So here it is the new and improved...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Seafood & Mercury

I like seafood. But recently I've been hesitant to buy or eat seafood because of the health risks involved. I wasn't sure which kinds of fish or shellfish had the toxic mercury I heard were found in seafood. This is something I didn't worry about when I lived in San Francisco because I bought my seafood at Whole Foods Market. Now that I live in Manila I have to be more careful because there are no indicators to what the mercury level is, if any, in the seafood bought anywhere in the country. So I did a bit of research for my peace of mind and so I may make informed decisions.

Mercury is found in all sea creatures. So there isn't a single seafood found in any market in any part of the world that will be free of mercury contamination. That’s sad isn't it? The implications of this is no longer merely ones health but extends to the health of the planet in general. Mercury is found in the atmosphere, soil, seas and lakes. It enters water systems mainly through rain and surface water run-off. Much of the mercury acquired by sea life comes from toxic heavy metals in the air and water, along with sediment that reaches aquatic life. Mercury comes from multiple sources, the most pervasive of which is from acid rain caused by powerplant emissions and from gold mining operations. Mercury contamination affects us globally since mercury can be transported through the atmosphere over large distances.

Mercury contamination poses health risks to adults and especially children and the unborn fetus. In adults, symptoms of mercury toxicity are hair loss, upset stomach, difficulty concentrating; numbness, burning or tingling of the extremities (lips, fingers, toes); fatigue; weakness; irritability; shyness; loss of memory and coordination; tremors; and changes in hearing and blurred vision. Extremely high mercury levels can permanently damage an adult's brain and kidneys, or even lead to circulatory failure. In the unborn child, infants and children, high levels of mercury can harm the developing nervous system, kidneys, liver and cause neurological damage.

Some fish have higher levels of mercury than others. Predatory, large and long-lived fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, orange roughy, tuna, marlin and king mackerel have the highest levels of mercury and should be avoided altogether. The lowest levels of mercury are found in shrimp, sole, tilapia, clams, oysters, herring, hake, scallops, anchovies, squid, flounder and sardines. In general, the smaller the fish the lower the level of mercury.

The good news is that mercury is released from our bodies through perspiration. But, this isn’t enough if one eats contaminated seafood regularly. The only other way to eliminate mercury from our bodies is to stop eating fish. It will take 2 to 3 months for the toxin be expelled but this is only for mercury we consumed recently. Mercury that has lodged itself in tissue is much harder to remove from our system. I would suppose fasting and taking bentonite would remove mercury together with other toxins from our bodies. The other thing is that we should not altogether eliminate seafood from our diets because we need to consume foods with omega 3 oils, which our bodies don’t produce naturally. So the best thing to do is to eat fish that has very low levels of mercury and consume more foods, such as nuts and seeds, that are high in omega 3 oils.

Works Cited:

BusinessWeek, “Time To Scale Back On Big Fish?”
by Carol Marie Cropper, Jan 19, 2004

University of Kentucky - College of Agriculture,
“Mercury in Fish: Advice for Consumers”,

Oceans Alive, “Mercury in Fish and Shellfish”,

Natural Resources Defense Council, “Mercury
Contamination in Fish”,

Saturday, April 01, 2006

8th Day Lemonade Diet

I can't believe I'm on my 8th day! I haven't eaten anything solid for 8 days. I start my day with a cup of laxative tea and as I steep my bag of Senna Tea I began to wonder about the availability of local ingredients for my spicy lemonade. Particularly the availability of maple syrup and the lack of sugarcane juice. Here I am indulging in imported and expensive maple syrup because I can't find sugarcane in a country full of sugarcane plantations. Fresh sugarcane juice is full of nutrients and is a refreshing, delicious drink. I would really like to see a sugercane juice stand in my neighborhood grocery...

Here is a nutritional analysis for 100 ml of sugarcane juice.

Sucrose: 16-18%
Glucose 7 Fructose: 0.5-1.0%
Ash: 1.0-2.0%
Nitrogen: 30-160mg
Protein: 180-960mg
Phosphorus: 13-28mg
Potassium: 200-400mg
Sodium: 5-15mg
Calcium: 20-40mg
Magnesium: 40-80mg
Sulphur: 30-80mg
Chloride: 200-400mg
Amino acids: 40-100mg
Phenolic acids: 100-300mg
Iron: Traces
Vitamins: Traces