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Involtini Of Beef

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Unlike in the past when abstaining from eating pork was mostly because it was a religious taboo, nowadays the issue about this controversial meat has become more than that.

Pork is said to be one of the unhealthiest meat on earth. So many books have been written lately discouraging consumers to partake of this “dirty” animal. A number of research claim that ALL pork products is unfit for human consumption. One such research for instance, is that of Prof. Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg, MD. In his article from “the Adverse Influence of Pork Consumption on Health”, he reports that pork allegedly contains homotoxine (human poison) or death enzyme.

However accurate these reports are, I would never know. But if you choose not to eat pork (or anything else) for whatever reason, then I applaud you for acting on your conviction. That is so admirable, and I am saying this with all my heart. As for me, I am not an advocate of abstaining on certain food nor on extreme diets (except if you have major health issues that necessitate you to do it). My principle has always been: balance and moderation and lots of exercise are the keys to a healthy living. When one lives in an excessive lifestyle (in all aspects), then one is surely bound to self-destruction. Thus, having said this, I will continue to enjoy partaking of this “other white meat” — once in a while, that is.

Admittedly though, I have become health conscious and have been more aware of nutritional labels especially during the last couple of years. Maybe because my mother was stricken with the dreaded big “C”, which eventually caused her demise less than a year ago. For this reason, my hubby and I try to eat healthy as much as possible.

Like I said earlier, I like to have my pork once in a while. For this dish, I used the lean cut of meat, pork tenderloin. The sauce in this dish is lovely, with its deep red color due to the red wine. It’s rich and velvety. Make extra, I’d suggest, if you love saucy dishes like I do… Well, if you must know, Filipinos in general prefer saucy dishes. Since every meal is eaten with rice, we like to drizzle sauce over the rice and mix ’em up so our rice wouldn’t be that dry… Yum! That’s the way most Filipinos like their rice!

Ironically though, I did not serve this dish with rice. We had rice the past two nights when I cooked this dish so I thought, polenta would be the best alternative. And I was right. The polenta soaked up all the flavorful sauce of this dish. I also served steamed green beans with lemon along side this dish. Hmnn.. what a wonderful, balanced meal. Don’t you think?

Pork Medallions In Sherry Wine and Dried Cherries Pan Sauce
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

1 cup sweet sherry (ruby port or other sweet red wine)
1/3 cup dried sweet cherries
4 teaspoons seedless raspberry jam
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 med onion, sliced (sweet or yellow)
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Fresh parsley springs (optional)

Preparation:

1. Combine first 4 ingredients.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat for 2 minutes. Cut the pork crosswise into 16 pieces. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.
3. place pork in pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove pork from pan.
4. Then saute onion in pan until soft and transluscent.

4. Stir in wine mixture, scraping to loosen browned bits. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat.
5. Stir in butter with a whisk.
6. Serve on a bed of polenta. Pour sauce over pork. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Simple Polenta With Fresh Parsley

3 cups water
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan.
2. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
3. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, milk, butter, parsley and pepper, and stir until the butter and cheese melt.
5. Transfer the polenta to a bowl and serve with Pork Medallions.

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It’s that time of the month again. Time for Taste & Create, a monthly blogging event where partipating bloggers are partnered off with one another; the partners browse each other’s blog and then they each have to cook their recipe of choice from their partner’s blog. Cool huh? This blog was authored and is hosted by Nicole of For The Love Of Food.

My partner this time is Swati of Chatkhor. She’s from Bangalore, India and so naturally, all of her recipes are for Indian food. She is a vegetarian, but she’s started to venture into cooking chicken for her non-veg hubby. I’d say that’s love right there. I enjoyed reading her posts. I can tell she’s a fun person, who enjoys cooking so much. And her personality is obviously reflected in her cooking too. Swati, it’s a pleasure to be partnered with you.

Now, what to cook? Obviously, we are not vegetarians, but I do cook vegetarian dishes once in a while. There are a number of recipes that I want to try from the blog, but unfortunately, a lot of the the spices the recipe call for are something that I doubt I’d be able to get here in Miami, as I don’t know of any Indian specialty store around here. I also don’t know what to substitute them with…
So in the end, I decided to do the recipe that Swati herself suggested – dum ka murgh zafrani, or chicken slowly cooked in yoghurt (check out the recipe here)… Doesn’t the Indian title alone intrigue you?

Looking at the recipe, I knew right away that it would be a very rich dish. What with all that butter, yoghurt, milk and cream required… whew! So I had to tweak the recipe, just to control the fat content just a little bit. First of all, I used a skinless, boneless chicken breast. We usually don’t eat the chicken skin anyway so there’s no point in having it in this dish. Also, instead of using 1 cup of clarified butter as called for, I decided to only use 2 tbsps of butter, mainly for flavor, and a couple tbsps of olive oil. For the milk, I opted to use 2% instead of the full cream milk. Also, the yoghurt I used was non-fat. I had to do all these because Mr. J is watching his cholesterol level, so this is important if I were to feed him this dish. And for the fresh cream, I substituted it with heavy whipping cream using only half of what’s required. And I have to admit.. I cheated a little bit too. I chose to use canned, peeled and crushed tomato instead of pureeing one from scratch. Not only did I saved a fraction of time, but I’ve also got lesser dishes to wash this way. I thought that was smart of me, wasn’t it? :o)

I don’t think the changes I made affected the flavor of this dish at all. In my humble opinion, it’s really all the spices that make this dish. The sauce still came out thick and creamy due to the addition of the almond paste and the pureed tomato. At first, I was kind of iffy about the almond paste. I thought almond paste is only for desserts. I never knew that it could be added on to savory dishes as well, but now I know better.. haha! The paste added a slight almond taste to the dish, but not overpowering. And it made this dish a bit sweeter as well, which is a nice balance to all the different spices going on in this food.


As it is only Mr. J and I at home, I decided to cut the recipe down into half. But even with half a recipe, it still made a lot, especially the sauce! But you know what, this food tastes better the next day, so I am not complaining.

Cooking this dish transported me back in time when I was hanging out with pals from New Delhi (India) and Katmandu (Nepal). Almost 10 yrs. ago, I was in a scholarship program in Germany, which was sponsored by the German government. I got close to my colleagues from India (there were 2 of them) and Nepal. The smell of this dish as it cooked made me remember those good ol’ times when my friends would cook dinner, or at other times, when we would have Indian theme nights. We would go out to eat at Indian restaurants (in Germany), and watch Indian movies afterwards. Oh, I miss those fun times with them. I still communicate with these friends up to now, actually.

Anyways, before I get carried away too much….. This dish is similar to curry, except that there is no curry in it. It had all the spices that one would expect in an Indian dish. The chicken was creamy and dreamy and I served it with plain boiled jasmin rice garnished with cilantro… Yum! My husband, who thought it was spicy, was surprised because the dish is milder than he had expected and slightly sweet. He actually liked it…Life is good…. Thanks, Swati, for a great recipe!

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SioMai (shoo-mai) commonly known as steamed dumplings, is one of the dishes brought to the Philippines by the Chinese immigrant, Ma Mon Luk. I told you about his inspiring story two posts ago. If you didn’t get to read it, check it out here.

This food is a dimsum staple in China or Hongkong. What I like about this dish is the fact that it is steamed. Steaming leaves the ingredients’ essential flavors and textures intact. Also, it is a healthier way to cook, yes?. It does take lot of time to prepare, so as a warning, do this way ahead of time when your tummy has not began churning yet. The actual steaming of these wonderful little bites don’t take time, it’s the stuffing and wonton wrapping action that does require a bit of patience.

As you know, Asian cuisine is characterized by a lot of chopping, dicing, wrapping or rolling. Really, it’s the preparation part that is more time consuming than the actual cooking in itself. But hey,if you love Asian food, then it’s going to be worth your effort.

You can serve these dumplings as appetizers, but my hubby and I often eat these for dinner, with a simple noodle soup perhaps. These yummy little things are light but filling.

The recipe below really is for you to learn the method more than anything else. These dumplings are so versatile that you can change up anything from the meat, to the vegetables and the topping.

Here, I used shredded carrots and boiled eggs as toppings. But you can also use shrimps, mushrooms, crabmeat, chopped scallions or quail eggs, or anything that might strike your fancy.

You can eat these with or without the dipping. But I love dips and sauces, so I chose to make a simple dip to go with my dumplings. There are many options to use as a dipping sauce. There is the bottled Thai/Chinese sweet chili sauce, or just the Hoisin sauce. What I did this time is a mixture of Hoisin sauce thinned out by a bit of lite soy sauce, and I added a bit of the garlic-chili paste for a little kick. If you want your sauce to be a little bit sweeter, you can either add more Hoisin, or add just a touch of honey.

Steamed Pork Wonton Dumplings
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
1 (5 oz) can water chestnuts, strained
1/4 cup scallions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger, coarsely chopped (about 1-inch size)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tbsp chili-garlic sauce (optional)
1 (16-ounce) pack wonton wrappers
Savoy or Napa cabbage for lining *

1. Throw in the food processor the carrots, garlic, ginger, chestnuts. Pulse a few times until vegetables are finely minced. You can also do the mincing by hand. The important thing is that thye veggies are minced finely.
2. Pour the processed vegetables in to a large bowl. Add the scallions, sesame oil, egg, soy sauce, oyster sauce and chili sauce (if using). Mix well.
3. Add the ground pork to the bowl and mix thoroughly, making sure that the spices and veggies are thoroughly incorporated. Do not overmix meat.

4. Working with one wonton wrapper at a time, (cover the rest with a damp paper towel to prevent from drying), spoon about 1 tsp meat mixture to the center of each wrapper. Moisten the edges with water.
5. Gather up and crip the edges of the wrapper around the filling; lightly squeeze to adhere to filling, leaving top open. Place your topping on top and gently press into the filling. Place dumpling on a baking sheet; cover loosely with damp towel. Repeat procedure.
6.Line your steamer with the cabbage leaves. Arrange dumpling over the leaves, 1 inch apart
7. If using a bamboo steamer, add water to skillet,about 1 inch deep; bring water to boil. Place steamer in pan and steam dumpling for 15 minutes or until done.
8. Remove dumplings from steamer. Serve warm with the dipping sauce. Discard cabbage.

*NOTE: Lining the steamer with cabbage leaves ensures the dumpling won’t stick to the bottom of the steamer.

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Filipinos in general, like the rest of the Asian countries, are not heavy meat eaters. Most of our dishes are prepared with lots of vegetables or noodles in them. Or, when we eat meat, we eat a matchbox-sized piece with lots of rice. (Yes, we love rice. We eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and yet, most Filipinos are petite. So rice really cannot make one fat!)

I can only attribute the way we eat to the Philippines being a third world country, i.e., poor. Majority of the people cannot afford to have meat dishes on a daily basis. For a famiy of seven (the average size of a Filipino family), they can become real costly. Thus rice, vegetables and noodles are thrown in to extend the dishes and make a big meal out of a little piece of meat.

This is true, even to my family. But occasionally, my mother does prepare meat dishes, like this one. This happens to be one of my Dad’s favorite as well. This dish is called “bistek”, or the Filipino-style beef steak. It is not like the steak that you would think it to be here in the U.S. They’re smaller pieces of beef sliced thinly and marinated in “kalamansi” (key lime), soysauce, garlic, salt and pepper. Some say, “bistek or bistec” refers to the Hispanic style of cooking a dish with a sauce. This is most probably true, considering that our culture is heavily Hispanic-influenced.

I remember hating this dish when I was younger because I didn’t like the pieces of the meat that get stuck in between my teeth. I would be crying by the end of our dinner. But thankfully, this is not the case anymore. In fact, this has become one of my favorite Filipino dishes.

Now that my Mom has passed on to be with the Lord, this dish brings back loving memories of her and my family as I was growing up.
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Pinoy Bistek
1 lb. beef (round, sirloin or tenderloin), sliced 1/4-inch thick
6 tbsp. of kalamansi (key lime) juice
1/2 c. dark soy sauce
3 tsp. garlic, minced
black pepper, freshly ground
2 large onions, sliced into rings (I used red onions)
2 tbsp vegetable cooking oil, or more if needed
flour, for dredging

1. Slice the beef. Take a piece of plastic wrap and cover the meat. Pound the meat mallet or a heavy skillet. Do this carefully so as not to tear the meat. (This is to ensure that the meat would be tender, but you can skip this step).

2. In a bowl, mix the next 4 ingredients (from the kalamansi juice thru pepper). Mix well and let the meat marinate in it for at least 30 minutes. (My opinion, the longer the marinating time, the better the meat tastes)

3. When ready, bring a heavy skillet up to temperature. Add the vegetable oil. Fry the onions lightly, just until tender. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

4. Take the meat out but reserve the marinade. Dredge the meat lightly with flour, carefully shaking off the excess.

5. Add oil to skillet and heat until smoking. Pan-fry the meat until brown (in batches if you have to). When the beef is done, add the marinade into to the skillet and let it boil for a minute or two. Then add the beef back into the skillet. Mix until all pieces are coated well with the sauce. Add the fried onions. Simmer for another minute or two.

6. Serve immediately with white rice. Enjoy.

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First of all, I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of Nicole King, the author/organizer, Taste and Create, an event where two foodie bloggers are partnered and then they get to do whatever recipe they like from each other’s archives. I can just imagine the many hours she dedicates inorder to make sure that this event happens every month. Kudos to you Nicole – for your creativity and for your patience!

With that said, I am both thrilled and a bit apprehensive when Nicole advised that I will be her partner for this months’ Taste & Create. Here I am, a novice at both cooking and blogging, paired up with an obviously seasoned cook and blogger. Just check out Nicole’s blog (here), and you will know what I mean. But, learning from others and taking on a challenge is the essence of this event, right? So, I’m going to learn as much as I can, and enjoy the ride as well while doing it.

When I learned that Nicole will be my partner, I knew immediately what I would do. I visited her blog a few days before the announcement, and was already planning on trying one of her recipes (among others), the croquettas de jamon, or cuban ham croquettes.


ham croquettes on a cuban roll


It is ironic that I would get the recipe for this dish from someone who is in Germany! I am based in Miami, Florida where Cuban abounds (next to Cuba, that is) so I should have been the one who had the recipe, right? But sometimes, distance also has something to do with everything. Because these croquettes are readily available here in Miami, I never had the motivation to make them at home. Ok, ok.. excuses, excuses….

Seriously, like Nicole, I had honestly thought that this would be complicated to make. Almost every Cuban I know has a grandmother who “makes super good croquettas”. So, I had naturally assumed that this dish is not only complicated, but would also be very time consuming….. WRONG! As a mattrer fact, it is exactly the opposite. And I have Nicole to thank for proving that it is not. Just read the recipe, or better yet, try it and you’ll find out.

The croquettes that are commercially sold, I know, have lard and all kinds of preservatives in them which make them not so good for our health (and figure). With this recipe, I probably would never buy ham croquettes from the bakery ever again. This is so much better! Because I know the quality of ingredients that went into it, I can now truly enjoy eating them without feeling guilty afterwards. (Though next time, I will try baking them for an even healthier version).

If you want to make this, the recipe is here. When I was shopping for the ingredients, I was so delighted to find an already ground ham. Awesome. This has even saved me one more step in making this dish. Talk about living in America!

ham croquettes ready for frying

Anyway, since the ham is water cured and not baked (recipe calls for baked ham), I added a 1/2-teaspoon of cumin for a smokey taste in the background. And then, I also added about 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice for freshness, plus a dash of crushed red peppers for a little kick. These are about the only variations I did to the recipe, otherwise, everything is a-ok!

Now, the next step is to learn making another one of my Cuban favorite, those guava and cheese pastelitos… anyone have the recipe?

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