Thursday, March 31, 2005

corn relish

back in the days...when i had just one child, we used to play "super columns" on #1 son's Genesis?, nono Game Gear, (hand held gaming device), and when i first made this my sonny said, mom, the corn looks like the magic gems!

this is ridiculously easy to make and a great side dish for deep fried chicken or grilled meats. yes i have warm weather on the brain, and warm weather food cravings. we're itching to bring out our patio and deck chairs and our grill. thank heavens we seem to have emerged from the seeming snowstorm-blizzard-brutal-weather time warp.

thaw a 1-lb bag of frozen white and yellow corn. rinse and drain well.
slice 1 stalk of scallions, green and white parts.
slice 1 piece of roasted red peppers, store bought in jar, (or make your own by roasting over an open gas flame or under a broiler until charred. put in a brown paper bag, close tightly, let steam for 5 minutes, then peel when cool enough to handle.)
whisk together 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 3 tbsps. of maple syrup, 1 scant tsp. turmeric, 1 or more tsps. salt, and a few 'dash'es of hot pepper sauce (Mama Sita's pure labuyo for me). slowly drop by drop mix in 2 tbsps. vegetable or canola oil. whisk together well and pour into corn. mix in scallions and red peppers. let stand in refrigerator overnight or for at least 3 hours before serving.
adapted from Bon Appetit, Nov. 1994.

chocolate orange mousse cake

dark chocolate sponge cake with a hint of orange, split into two layers then filled with luscious orange mousse


this week feels like it's stretching on and on...good thing i have a new chocolate cookbook and a treasure trove of recipes to experiment with. nothing like chocolate to make you feel renewed, reinvigorated, refreshed. (heehee. O.A. ano?)
anyway, it's a special treat for my kittens who are SO looking forward to spring break, which is three. more. weeks. away! the recipe is from the "what's cooking" series for chocolate by jacqueline bellefontaine.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

designed and created by the kids, using crayons and food coloring.

paula peck's garlic and chicken stew

when i first made this it was an unmitigated disaster. that was 15 years ago and i think i was sleep deprived? an unfocused beginner?
i saved the recipe because i had a feeling it was worth keeping.
despite the large number of garlic it is very mild tasting with a faintly sweetish undertone from the tarragon. even #1son (mr. "chicken again?") loved it. so there.

served with thin spaghetti tossed with olive oil infused with garlic and chopped red long pepper.

this is for 8-9 chicken thighs, or 5 chicken leg quarters,split.
preheat oven to 375F. in a pot with a tight-fitting oven-proof lid (e.g. a dutch oven), pour 3 tbsps. of olive oil.
peel 40 cloves of garlic, from about 2 heads.
combine 1 tbsp. of kosher or sea salt, 1 tsp. of monosodium glutamate (omit if you abhor it, increase salt), 1 tsp. of ground white pepper, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and a DASH of allspice.
mix 1/2 cup chopped celery leaves and 3 sprigs fresh tarragon,stems removed, leaves finely chopped. (or use dried tarragon and mix into dry seasonings above).
put 1/3 of garlic cloves on olive oil, layer 3-4 chicken thighs, sprinkle 1/3 of salt and pepper and spice mixture all over, and finally sprinkle 1/3 of celery leaves and tarragon all over. repeat two times. pour 1 & 1/2 cups of dry white wine, put the lid on and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. (15 years ago i put the pot in the oven without the white wine...yikes.)
the chicken will be almost meltingly soft but not crispy skinned. the garlic is good for smashing and spreading on toasted baguette slices.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

IMBB #13: my little cupcake

this being a babyblog, well, i had to do babycakes. i couldn't decide which one to submit for the Is My Blog Burning? #13 event kindly hosted by maki. fickleminded woman am i. so i submit both. the recipes are based on Marcel Desaulniers' Death by Chocolate Cakes which sat on the shelf because the pictures and recipes intimidated me. seeking inspiration, i examined them more closely and decided that if i read them over and over and break them into steps...maybe i could make them too! and i did! many thanks to chef toni for posting her method of internalizing recipes... ;)

one in fancy dress...

cocoa-cashew babycakes with raspberry puree and cashew-chocolate bark

babychef, assistant and tester

the other one that bespeaks "spring has sprung!"...

lemon poppyseed babycakes: plain, and with chocolate frosting and pearl sugar

i've made hundreds of cupcakes in my mommy lifetime, for school birthdays and donations and bake sales, and i find that baby cakes tend to disappear own kittens eat them like POPCORN...
the recipes are here.

chicken skewers, yakitori style

of course grilling on a charcoal grill would be the best way...but for us, those summery days are a mere daydream for now. the weathermen in these parts are almost apologetic; more snow on the way, and they seem remorseful about announcing the 4 to 8 inches expected tonight.
oh well, let's broil some chicken.
cut boneless skinless chicken thighs into biggish chunks. marinate in a 1/4 cup of kikkoman and a splash of sake, and season with salt and pepper, at least 15 minutes. trim, wash, and slice a bunch of scallions into 1 & 1/2 inch pieces (on the diagonal). skewer into bamboo sticks that have been soaked in cold water for at least a half an hour (to prevent burning under the broiler).
make a sauce to paint on:
2/3 cup Yamasa or Kikkoman soy sauce
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 & 1/2 tbsps. sake
1 tbsp. flour

in a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients very well and bring to a boil. simmer about 10 minutes until reduced by a third.

paint this sauce on to the chicken and scallion skewers and set under the broiler for a total of ten minutes, brushing on more sauce 2-3 times and turning. chicken should be moist but well cooked.

chicken yakitori
(adapted from "Asian Cooking," by Sallie Morris and Deh-ta Hsung)

Monday, March 21, 2005

a new place for dimsum

husband heard about the change of management at an old established restaurant in the tiny Chinatown of Boston, through the Chinese restaurant grapevine at his office.
we wanted a quieter place--our old favorite was turning quite raucous and i was getting pretty alarmed at the safety issues (you know, a mommy's paranoia about fire exits and crowd control)--so we were delighted at the rediscovery of "New Shanghai" at Hudson street right on the edge of Chinatown. it is small and manageable. and quiet.
dimsum was fresh and hot, though because we arrived pretty late the carts must have been parked away in preparation for dinner. they let us order off the menu so husband ticked off the usual and the classic: hargaw (shrimp dumplings), pork and shrimp sio mai, spinach dumplings (both steamed and deep fried), steamed pork ribs in black bean sauce...all beyond good and above standard! the kids really enjoyed their lunch and mom and dad happily watched them as they ate...(#2 son wanted to lick his plate as he waited for the next delivery!)
we ordered an 8 delights fried noodle and it was perfectly crispy but without the greasiness, the pork, chicken, shrimp, scallops, squid, dried squid, roast pork, and vegetables generously endowed on the topping with a lightly flavored sauce. (husband has been trying to make this at home and he concedes this is very well made.)

8 delights

then we decided to try a szechuan dish of scallops in garlic sauce...though the scallops were a wee bit off, the sauce was spicy and dark and great with hot rice. i think we'll try this with shrimp next time.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

the latest breakfast-snack-appetizer item that my kids have gone overboard for...
i used to give them wheat crackers spread with brie straight out of the wheel or wedge, but with the last one we got, i thought i'd offer it toasted on this really great pan de sal (crusty bread rolls) from "Philippine Bread House" in New Jersey. it is fluffy and light inside but stands up well to toasting--so different from our usual brand which gets crumbly and dry too quickly.
toast the pan de sal lightly before spreading brie on top. grill just until melted.
serve at once.

pandesal with brie please, mom!
(the frothy coffee is for mom).

Friday, March 18, 2005

beef masaman curry

i was reading a blogger's post about her life in was heart rending! suspenseful! action-filled! and ultimately, heart-breaking...yet in the back of my avaricious foodie's brain a little demon whispered "beef curry, beef curry..." because it was the main item in one of her "adventures." it had been mentioned before by a suplada chef(di ba thess??) and i had several recipes in my collection. then the NYTimes featured an article by Mark Bittman, the minimalist chef, mentioning that slow-braised cheap cuts of beef are all the rage this season (winter-into-spring transition season?).
so it was time to try beef masaman curry. i've had fish curry, vegetable curry, and chicken curry, but never beef.
the whole house is quite fragrant right now with all the spices. based on a recipe from Asian Cooking, by Sallie Morris and Deh-ta Hsiung.

2 & 1/2 cups of coconut milk (used Handaan brand frozen "gata", available in the freezer section of Asian groceries, diluted with enough water)
1.6 pounds of beef "chuck" for stew
1 cup canned coconut cream, skimmed from canned coconut milk, (discard watery liquid that collects on the bottom of the can)
1 can Maesri masaman curry paste
6 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp. palm sugar or packed brown sugar
2 tbsps. of fish sauce
3 tbsps. of tamarind puree
2 wild lime leaves (also known as kaffir)
2-3 red potatoes, quartered
1 large red onion, quartered

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts

simmer beef in coconut milk for about 40 minutes till almost tender. remove from heat.
in a separate pot, boil the coconut cream, watching closely so that it doesn't scorch, until it curdles slightly. turn down the heat and add the curry paste.
pour the cream-curry paste mixture into the beef and coconut milk and add the rest of the ingredients except the peanuts.
simmer 15-20 minutes. adjust the seasonings with fish sauce or salt and pepper.
add the peanuts and simmer 5 minutes more.
garnish with sliced red chili peppers or cilantro. serve with plenty of hot jasmine rice or French bread. the flavors are rich, and complex, a tangy and spicy hot curry.

CORRECTED!, thanks to the astute and dedicated chef of Our Kitchen, JMom! i forgot to list the onion and potato ingredients. whew! salamat JMom.

chewy chocolate chip and cherry oatmeal cookies

i always want to sneak in something healthy like oatmeal to the kids' cookies. #1son is wise to my sneaky ways and had been requesting a different type of sweet treat, but the two little ones wanted chocolate chip. i thought i'd make them with dried sour cherries which i picked up from trader joe's on our last food foray. i tried one and whoa did i pucker up! super sour! and i love sour. i decided to dump more chocolate chips than i'd planned on using to counter the sourness. and it worked! reminded me of black forest cake somehow--the cherries don't taste that tart in the cookie dough. we all loved it. or should i say devoured it.

Preheat oven to 375F. lightly grease cookie sheets with butter.
have all ingredients at room temperature.
in large mixing bowl, cream 1 & 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) of butter and 3/4 cup fine granulated sugar and 3/4 cup light brown sugar. add 1 egg and 2 tsps. of vanilla.

in small mixing bowl whisk 3/4 cup all purpose flour with 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 3/4 tsp. salt. add flour mixture to creamed butter and sugar mixture and beat dry ingredients are moistened. stir in 3 cups uncooked oats (i used McCain's Irish quick cooking oatmeal), scant 3/4 cup dried sour cherries, and 1 & 1/2 cups Ghirardelli double chocolate chips.

drop by rounded spoonfuls into prepared cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. bake about 10 minutes or just until edges of cookie dough are golden brown. let cookies stand in sheets for 2 minutes and gently lift to wire racks to cool completely.

optional: drizzle melted white chocolate over cookies and let set until firm. (*sigh* my kittens ran out of patience for that though...)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

of doodleboards and duck gizzards

to all my bloggerbuddies,
the doodle board still works! can't view it with mozilla, even with my constant nagging--am particularly expert at that :) -- but there doesn't seem to be anyone home over there (except to take the fee that they suddenly started charging to keep the cute smilies and enhance with photo messages...) so anyone who wants to say hi, it works but when you press "go" it disappears unless you use IE.


inspired by John Patrick's recent post on the Westernized Kusina: a slight variation of lugaw or arroz caldo or pospas or congee as my children and husband refer to it at home.
i added pack of duck gizzards, available at Asian groceries. tenderize separately in a pot of boiling, seasoned water with a whole peeled onion (or a few shallots), one whole unpeeled garlic clove, and a knob of peeled ginger. skim off any scum that surfaces and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender.
add to the lugaw or congee when chicken is almost done. garnish with finely sliced scallions and lime slivers. splash on patis (fish sauce) and bits of golden fried garlic...hmm, i'm making myself hungry again.
and yes the kids loved the gizzards.

Monday, March 14, 2005

to spatchcock a chicken...

a different way to roast a bird: cut the backbone out with poultry shears and "spread eagle" the bird. marinate with your favorite flavors (for this i rubbed crushed garlic and black pepper paste all over the chicken, and poured about a quarter cup of equal parts sweet soy and fish sauce and 2 tsps. of calamansi juice).
roast in the usual way...i find that with this method a whole chicken is more evenly marinated and the roasting time is a bit quicker. let the chicken rest 15 minutes before carving.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

bistek Tagalog

marinated (dark and light soy sauce, a spritz of calamansi or lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper) skirt steak sizzled in a grill pan, served over a bed of deep fried sliced waxy potatoes and smothered with sauteed onion slices with reduced marinade poured over.
my kittens were joyous. this is one of their favorite beef dishes.

Friday, March 11, 2005

home style food: crispy lechong kawali

it takes some planning, as the pork belly must be boiled and tenderized in seasoned water with salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, peeled shallot, and 1 unpeeled whole garlic clove (45 minutes at simmer, not falling off the bone but just tender); then cooled and air-dried on a rack.

a deep heavy cast iron pot for deep frying lechong kawali: holds the heat evenly and its lid won't fly off should the pork belly splatter.

crispy lechong kawali...deep fried (preboiled and dried) pork belly with sassy's achara papaya relish (and "cincalok"--a Malacca fermented shrimp sauce--simmered with deep fried garlic chips on the side. a great lunch for a wintry day!).

Thursday, March 10, 2005

deep fried potato and chickpea "pillows" with coriander and mango relish

...a la samosas

used spring rolls wrappers that were too small to stuff and shape into triangles so i call them pillows.
i have taken liberties with a recipe from a little cookbook "the best of India," by Balraj Khanna to try and duplicate the first-time-bite-experience. a British friend persuaded me to try samosas at a little bazaar in the courtyard of what used to be the Quad complex in Makati. way back when. after one batch of big bites i went back for more from the little tent and asked the nice lady for extra chutney: a heavenly green mango cilantro "pesto"-like concoction which went perfectly with the samosas.
my ma's recent batch of pickled green mango turned out too salty so i thought i'd lighten it up with a whirl of cilantro and "calamansi" citron juice. it turned out really refreshingly green and sour tasting.

for the samosas:1 2-in. piece fresh ginger, peeled & coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. pomegranate seeds (anardana)
5 tbsps. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 & 1/2 tsp. garam masala*
1 pound potatoes (about 2 large), peeled, boiled & coarsely chopped
1 cup chickpeas "garbanzos," canned
1/3 cup thawed frozen peas
spring rolls wrappers
vegetable oil for deep frying

process chili, ginger and pomegranate seeds in a blender until fine.
in a medium saucepan, heat 3 tbsps. of the oil over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. add the cumin and coriander seeds and cook, stirring constantly,
30 seconds, or until the seeds pop and blacken.
add the onions and the remaining oil. cook, stirring occasionally, 7 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. reduce the heat to low, add the chili-ginger mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, 4 minutes. stir in the garam masala, potatoes, and peas, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. set aside to cool completely.

wrap in spring roll wrappers and deep fry for about 4 minutes or until golden brown.
drain in paper towels and serve with cilantro-green mango chutney.
there's a little "punjab cafe" a stone's throw away from home where i get a quick fix, very rarely since i am the only one who adores this cuisine in my household. they serve their samosas with a tangy tamarind-onion chutney.

*garam masala can be store-bought or home made (grind together in a spice mill or with mortar and pestle, 1 tbsp. black peppercorns, 2 tsps. cumin seeds, 1 1-inch pc. of cinnamon stick, 10 green cardamom pods, 1 tsp. cloves, and 3 bay leaves. store in an airtight container. this makes about 3 tbsps.).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

palabok for atinna, who's hungry and busy. same as a previous recipe except it's been fortified with 2 cups of fresh shrimp head-and-shell extract, as prescribed by the pilgrim and chopped up pork butt, an idea from Filipino Homestyle Recipes, by Norma Olizon-Chikiamco.

Monday, March 07, 2005

penne rigate with chicken and broccoli

at Trader Joe's they were giving away little paper plates with this hot cooked sample, and the kittens loved it and kept sending first mom then dad to get more.
well, we were quite conspicuous being the only Asian family at the store at that moment so the nice sample lady gave daddy the recipe.
a simple, hearty and quick meal, if you buy all the ingredients in frozen prepackaged bags.
i thought, i'll just make it using fresh ingredients. (i hope it's not a symptom of food snobbery but i like to know what's in our food. is it? food snobbishness i mean???)
1 lb. penne rigate (ridged tube pasta), cooked according to package directions;
1.5 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken thighs, marinated (olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme or sage, a small splash of soy sauce) and grilled, sliced into strips;
2 cups of cooked broccoli florets (take care not to overcook, as it will still be sauteed);
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, pepper to taste
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
4 tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)
(optional: milk or chicken broth to thin down the sauce if it gets too dry or thick)

marinate chicken thighs


saute olive oil with 1 smashed garlic clove, remove garlic clove; add grilled chicken strips and cooked broccoli florets...

add cheese and butter to pasta with chicken and broccoli over low heat, then mix well to combine. (thin down with milk or chicken broth if needed.)

penne rigate

deep fried mackerel nuggets

i bought a huge 2/12 lb. Spanish mackerel in anticipation of my ma's sending a ziploc bag of pickled green mango. half of it went into Filipino ceviche (lime cured kinilaw)
and the other half i filleted and cut into strips then nuggets. i dredged in cornstarch, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of thinly cut Thai basil leaves, and then deep fried in hot oil.

mackerel nuggets

the basil gave an almost undefinable fragrance to the oil which enriched the mackerel flavor quite well...delicious with a sprinkling of lime juice and kosher salt on top.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

food trips

we've been out food shopping, replenishing our supplies for the coming week. husband and i mused to each other that we don't go to the chain supermarkets/groceries that much anymore since the huge Asian market opened nearby, and we prefer to drive further afield to alternative places like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods to find hard-to-find ingredients and exotic produce, and on to the bulk/wholesale clubs to find bargains.
so this weekend while bloghopping in the rare moments when the pc is available (kids are home...!) i was thrilled to see a fresh meat market in Athens and bump into Market Man who took me on a food trip back to Manila. he has glorious photographs of purveyors and produce, with recipes and reminiscences. made me awfully homesick though...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

about a boy

#1 son, tall and gangly at almost 16, is always famished. he comes bounding into the kitchen everyday, "what's for dinner mom?". last night when i said, "fried chicken." he said, not chicken again. so i harrumphed. last time we had chicken was two days ago? not an unreasonable length of time, surely? so i told him, he could have ramen (instant noodles). he said, fine. i said, fine. (self to babyrambutan, let it go, pick your battles, he'll be sweet again when he's in his 30's...)

it's a four step chicken fry method which i learned from an old Gourmet magazine issue, Claritha's fried chicken wings. i thought i'd try with chicken thighs. i knew i had to adjust the frying time and be careful that it'd not be bloody chicken (as no doubt my teenager must have muttered to himself last night).

start early in the day to allow enough brining and marinating time.
first step is to brine the chicken in rock or kosher salt (so it doesn't melt quickly but will coat the chicken enough to flavor and tenderize); for 8 chicken thighs i used 1/4 cup of salt, for at least 30 minutes, up to 3 hours.
rinse and drain the thighs thoroughly.
put the chicken in a large shallow glass bowl. pour enough well-shaken buttermilk to cover the chicken. slice 1 large white onion thinly and mix into the chicken.
marinate for at least an hour.
put about a cup and half of all purpose flour in a sturdy plastic or brown paper bag.
mix in seasonings of choice (just salt and pepper for my tender-taste-budded kittens, but i can think up all sorts of popeye's fried chicken type of seasonings like paprika, cajun spices, szechuan pepper, etc...). plop chicken thighs in and seal and shake the bag to ensure all-over-coating. place the meat into a rack over a sheet pan and let stand at least 15 minutes to dry.

preheat oven to 350F.
deep fry in very hot oil, about 375F about 12 minutes. drain in rack over oven proof sheet and put in oven to keep hot. you may have to fry in a couple of batches, or fry in two pans.

forgot garnish!
yes, there is no "borloloy"(accessories) for the photo op, the kids were hungry. it was heavenly crispy and tasty, served with steamed green beans and okra and mashed potatoes ala Delia Smith and chef celia K, and no, #1 son did not touch it last night.
but. today is "leftover night". guess what he wants to eat for dinner?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"orange glow chiffon cake"

each Chinese New Year brings us a deluge of oranges, which symbolizes wealth and gold. the clan comes together and exchanges bags of them with a box of chocolates or other sweets and a "hung bao" red envelope for even more luck.
what better way to use up three of the biggest juiciest specimens than
"orange glow chiffon cake."
the recipe is from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (which i recommend to everyone who wants to learn how to bake. it is scholarly and scientific and tells about the why's and what for's of each ingredient and method).
now i've tried this many times but had always disobeyed the cooling rule of inverting it over a narrow bottle so ended up with a heavy dense cake each time.
this time i wanted to do it right.
that is why you need a bottle of "maggi" or Knorr liquid seasoning for this cake. read on please, i'm not joking!

equipment: 10-in non-stick 2 piece tube pan

preheat oven to 325F.
dry ingredients:
whisk together in a large mixing bowl...
2 & 1/4 cups cake flour, lightly scooped into measuring cup and topped off with knife
1 & 1/2 cups sugar, remove 2 tbsps. and set aside in a cup (for egg whites)
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt.

whisk and make a crater in the middle. add 7 egg yolks, 1/2 cup canola or safflower oil, 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 tsp. orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier(optional), 2 tbsps. grated orange zest, and 1 tsp. vanilla. whisk well until blended and smooth.

in a spotless stainless steel or copper mixing bowl, beat 10 egg whites (reserve extra yolks for another use) until frothy and then beat on high speed with the reserved 2 tbsps. sugar and 1 & 1/4 tsps. cream of tartar. beat until soft peaks form.
fold in egg white mixture into flour-egg yolk batter with a whisk or a spatula only until blended. do not overbeat.
pour into ungreased tube pan and bake for about 55 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

invert into the tip of tightly closed maggi bottle (it took a few crazy moments looking for a bottle which i should have done before starting baking!!!). the neck should be long and narrow enough to slip into the hollow tube and stable enough not to tip. this ensures that the cake will not settle down and get heavy and unbecoming...

cool completely, about one and a half hours.

i had a bit of trouble unmolding. use a long sharp knife to loosen the edges of the tube pan, avoiding any sawing motions to keep the sides smooth. a pro would trim the rough brown bits...but my kittens had a keen eye for every little crumb and would have none of that. use a bread (serrated) knife to cut into slices.

chiffon cake...4 1/2 inches tall. light but moist, it is very easy to eat a lot of it in one go; but it's all right, this one is low in cholesterol. not that i'm counting...

a secret pot

i was always skulking around in our kitchen, lifting lids and sniffing pots even as a very small child. the cook-of-the-moment (my mom was a very meticulous employer, so we had quite a succession of cook-nanny-helpers) was always shooing me away. i almost always found a little pot of mysterious stews, my mom's personal stash of pinakbet, dinengdeng, bulanglang, which was not served with our dinner--just for her. i think it was because she knew we wouldn't eat it but she had to have some.
now i have my own secret pot: those dishes i know the husband and kids won't want but i must have. this is one of them...

pork with black pepper, garlic, and fish sauce,a Cambodian recipe which i learned from tv's Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, back in the days when i had the firstborn son. and had to sit a lot while nursing him...
this is a very spicy and hearty fishy dish. add more or less peppers as you wish. (sometimes i add sliced fresh green long sili right before removing from heat.)

crush 3 large cloves of garlic with 1/2 tbsp. of peppercorns. saute in hot peanut oil. add 3/4 lb. pork butt, cut into cubes and about 1/3 cup of smashed cilantro roots or stems. stir fry until pork is browned. add 4 or more, according to taste, dried red chilies. add 2-3 tbsps. of Vietnamese fish sauce and turn down heat to simmer. cook until pork is tender, adding 1/4 cup of water at a time if it dries out too quickly. serve with sprigs of cilantro and a squeeze of lime. and hot jasmine rice.

...and i will offer the kittens a bite now and then so it won't have to be my secret pot anymore (husband doesn't eat cilantro!).

a delayed celebration

kittens were getting very excited but the family dinner had to be delayed due to the snow. so "MaMa" (paternal grandmother) and "YeYe" took Sunday, the day before our return to school from winter break. we went there early evening for MaMa's light but flavorful cooking. they also bought a few dishes from their favorite Chinatown restaurant. husband enjoyed the company of his siblings (one niece got engaged over Valentine's so we have a big occasion to look forward to next year!). and kittens are all very rich with hung bao ("lucky money") once again (wonder if they'll let me borrow some?).

MaMa's spread...right before we dug in.

my favorites, the dishes symbolic of luxury and good fortune, for a prosperous new year:

"fat choy" with oysters and MaMa's shrimps with salty cashews

sea cucumber, sea clam and black mushroom