Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Expanding my Menu Repertoire

I make kick-ass pasta and taco sauce. I claim bragging rights because I've cooked these forever, but that about covers my kitchen expertise. Shame on me, I could not even cook rice!

That was the case -- until a couple of weeks ago.

One weekend morning, my bestfriend Cielo tagged me along on an Asian Cuisine Cooking Demo Class at the International School for Culinary Arts & Hotel Management in Makati. I gladly went! I love watching people cook on TV, that's where I get tips to further improve my kick-ass pasta. Although admittedly, I am scared to try complicated stuff for fear that I might end up wasting food.

Then again, years of tiptoeing around the stove makes you want to explore more, get creative with ingredients and just discover where your palate takes you. That morning, I opened my mind to endless possibilities. If I can make kick-ass pasta, I could probably make kick-ass ulam!

The class was held in the FEU Makati Campus, in a semi-circular cooking auditorium where the stage was a kitchen. We were about seventy attendees, some were obvious cooking experts (read: mothers).

 Notes, notes, notes! But really, I was mostly jotting down silly, funny pieces from Chef Toby  like 
"nothing is more fulfilling that having perfectly cooked rice."

Chef Toby Co and his pristine, steel and marble kitchen was a sight. And when he started cooking and throwing tips, he was inspiring. When he showed us how to properly fry tempura (let it swim in oil and then let it go), I wanted to come down to the kitchen and try for myself. 

 Jerson's (the Kitchen Assistant) perfectly cooked tempura

I finally had my moment when he asked for volunteers to do shrimps for Yang Chow. I raised my hand, thinking I would probably slice or dice. When I came down, he told me I would de-vein. My face was one big question mark. I've never held raw seafood, not even to clean fish. I bought them in the supermarket in those plastic containers – all but ready to cook. But hey, this was a day of challenge, so I did it. 

 Sige, chef, tawanan mo lang ako! I was soooo out of my comfort zone.

De-veining was difficult at first, finding the vein and then not knowing for sure the level of hand pressure the shrimp can take. Chef laughingly told me at one point that my hands were not meant for delicate work, “ang bigat ng kamay!” My mother told me as much when I was growing up. But I enjoyed de-veining so much that after the class, I went to the supermarket, bought half a kilo of prawns, de-veined and cooked them that night. My reward was the awe in my family's and friends' faces when they had their first taste of my Shrimp recipe.

We were taught to properly do sushi, shao-mai, glazed pork and a couple other dishes. I plan to try all, and to learn more recipes. 

 Cielo and moi, with Chef Toby and the Superkitchen assistants!

I think that with the techniques I learned, I can build up my confidence to try more grand cuisines!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Greening my Greens

It is true that life is infinitely more relaxing with more plants in the environment. And as it turns out, my love for the greens is well-reciprocated.  

Gorgeous flowers of Indie, my Indian Beads Plant from my best friend Cielo

Indie with new stalks, which are those with lighter green leaves and stems

From a couple of collections, my plants are now thriving and diverse. I guess word of my plant-love-affair got around and I started receiving pots of them for Christmas, New Year and , well, in general. Even my favorite “garden man”Kuya Tony gave me a couple of pretty seedlings for free. They are all living harmoniously and healthily in our apartment veranda, just like old times

Cali, my young calamansi plant, with fresh new leaves

My still unnamed bougainvillea (paper flower) plant

 E, one of my Chinese Fortune Plant collection, has grown so much. 
When I got it in September last year, it only had four leaves. I had to re-pot it twice already.
My boyfriend, glad of my “relatively safe” diversion, bought me a gardening book for my reader. I read this during morning coffee, so that I can immediately implement tips during my “gardening minutes” after I have had my caffeine fill.

My heart glows when I see them grow. Sometimes new leaves form overnight; stalks I haven't noticed before seem to have sprung – even fresh blooms seem to bloom even bigger in just hours. Every now and then I get the urge to just look. See if anything changed since I last did.

D, the oldest of my Chinese Fortune Plant collection, is now sporting a new “offspring” 
(see that small stalk between?)

Maybe it helps that I sing to them sometimes.