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Haricots verts guisado

Filipinos are not exactly known to be crazy about vegetables. The Filipino-American comedian Rex Navarrete joked, “If we could eat the soul of the pig, we would.” (Wait, crispy pata isn’t vegetarian?) So in a way, this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club vegetable theme seemed like a pretty good challenge.

Haricots verts guisado

Sitaw guisado, or stir-fried long beans, is one of my favorite Filipino vegetable dishes. Because proper yard-long beans can be harder to find where I live, I decided to try to make it with a substitute that is more readily available to me: haricots verts. Haricots verts are th small, very thin green beans, essentially a baby version of the normal pencil-width green beans. They’re great because they cook much faster and I find that I don’t need to blanch them; ideal for a three-minute stir fry.

The classic sitaw guisado usually calls for pork, shrimp, tomatoes and onion, as well as sometimes soy or fish sauce. I love this for yard-long beans, but haricots verts have a much more delicate flavor. For these, I scaled back until they were almost naked: just the beans, garlic and a tiny hit of oyster sauce. (Oyster sauce is the truth.) Because it’s so simple, I’ve worked out the steps so they’ll come out just right: the beans need to be quickly fried over high heat, then a bit of water is added to make sure they cook through, then after, the garlic and oyster sauce are added. (I always add the garlic towards the end otherwise you’ll taste nothing but burnt garlic.) If you want to get all fancy, fry some sliced Chinese sausage before frying the beans. If you can’t tear yourself away from the mighty pig, this is a delicious way to incorporate it into this otherwise meatless dish.

Haricots verts guisado
serves 4 as a side dish

150 grams (6 ounces) haricots verts
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Rinse the green beans and drain in a colander.
  2. Heat the wok over high heat. Add a small glug of vegetable oil and swirl around immediately.
  3. Add the green beans and a big pinch of sea salt and stir for one minute.
  4. Add 2-3 tablespoons water. Continue to stir fry until the beans almost entirely absorb the water (there should be a little bit at the bottom of the pan).
  5. Add the garlic and give it a quick two or three stirs. Add the oyster sauce and give it another quick stir.
  6. Immediately turn the whole thing out into a serving dish and eat with rice.

Haricots verts

I heart coffee and gelato

You know, even in the middle of winter, Milan is not a bad place to hang out if you love gelato. And coffee. Or gelato with coffee (otherwise known as affogato). Lucky for me I got to travel there twice in a month. Even with less than 48 hours for each trip, I got my fix.

Macchiato and gelato

Macchiato and gelato (hazelnut and chestnut) in the background. Does the pattern confirm that the dude was flirting with me? Eh, probably not. Bianco Latte, Milan.

Never too cold for ice cream
Yoghurt and Bacio. Bianco Latte, Milan.

3 scoops @ Chocolat, Milan, Italy
Bomby. Pistachio and fiordilatte from Chocolat, Milan.

6 (count 'em, SIX) types of chocolate gelato
Gotta love a place that has SIX kinds of chocolate gelato. Chocolat, Milan.

Creme fraiche ice cream with Nutella

I realized after lying sick in bed yesterday that oh! it was World Nutella Day! So given I was feeling somewhat better, I decided to whip up a batch of ice cream because as we all know, nothing makes you feel better like ice cream.

I decided to swirl Nutella into one of my favorite flavors: creme fraiche. The trick to swirling in flavors into ice cream is to layer it in the container rather than adding the stir-in into the ice cream maker itself. It keeps the ice cream separated so it doesn’t just turn the whole ice cream chocolatey. (Not that I mind that so much.)

Creme fraiche ice cream with Nutella

I noticed that the texture of Nutella varies from country to country. Here it’s not very syrupy, so I would suggest adding just a bit of water at a time until you get a texture a wee bit thicker than chocolate sauce. I noticed that the Nutella became pretty firm in the freezer when I added too much in a single spot.

The tangy creme fraiche cuts through the sweetness of the Nutella. I could. Not. Stop. Eating. Straight from the ice cream maker. I’d say that would be a make again recipe, wouldn’t you?

Creme fraiche ice cream with Nutella
adapted from David Lebovitz
makes about 1 quart or 1 liter

1 cup (230 ml) whole milk
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (130 g) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (475 ml) creme fraiche
1 generous cup of Nutella

First, make the custard. Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium low heat until it’s steaming. Pour the milk over the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Add the milk/egg mixture back to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula. When the mixture thickens (at around 190 F) and coats the back of the spatula, pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl. Chill the mixture in the fridge for a few hours until cold.
When ready to freeze in the ice cream maker, stir in the creme fraiche. Chill in the ice cream maker as directed and the ice cream is thickened.
Meanwhile, stir the Nutella (adding a little bit of water) until it can pour in a ribbon from a spoon. It’ll seize up when you first add the water, but don’t worry, just keep stirring and it’ll come back together.
Add a layer of Nutella to the bottom of the container you will be placing the ice cream in.
When the ice cream is done freezing, add a layer of ice cream over the Nutella, then a layer of Nutella, then ice cream.
Freeze for at least 2 hours.

World Nutella Day
Ms. Adventures in Italy
Bleeding Espresso

Orange-scented leche flan

Wow, was one of my New Year’s resolutions really to tend to my blog more? Well, I guess that one was over before it started!

So my first post of the year is for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge: your favorite birthday food.

orange-scented leche flan

Since my birthday is in the summer, I would probably narrow it to barbecue skewers. But this is January, so I’m not going to be standing out in front of the grill in my winter coat (although I have been known to do that in the past). That said, I would have to go for one of my favorite desserts: leche flan. This is total pinoy party food because:

a) It’s super rich. The only way it would ever become richer is if you figured out a way to add pork. (Which I don’t think I would recommend, even though I am in fact, Filipina.)
b) It’s kind of a pain to make. It’s not difficult, but there are a couple of annoying steps. And you have to wait before eating it.

I used to make leche flan with a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks, but I prefer the super creamy texture that all egg yolks bring to the table. (You can see my older recipe here — I made a video with my daughter outlining the steps.)

Filipino leche flan contains condensed milk, which adds to the creamy texture. I heat the milk mixture first, although this is something I wasn’t taught, it’s a fairly important step. The trick to making a flan is tempering the eggs. When you add hot liquid to the egg yolks, the egg yolks acclimate to the hot temperature, thus preventing them from curdling when you put the flan in the oven. (I’m sorry to say I’ve tasted a fair share of rubbery homemade flans, and this has to do with the eggs curdling, among other things.) Also important: make sure to bake it in a bain-marie (water bath).

I love the taste of citrus in flan, so I use orange zest. Lemon zest is also great, and adds a little bit of a fresh, light flavor. (You’ll like it if you’re a fan of lemon curd.) If you prefer a non-citrusy flavor, just replace the orange zest with one scraped vanilla bean.

Orange-scented leche flan
makes one 8-inch flan
I just use a baking dish, but a fluted brioche pan makes it look extra pretty. If I spotted a flan that was baked in a fluted mould, I’m sure it would whisk me back to being a 7-year-old at my grandma’s house, celebrating my summer birthday.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
10 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce (400 g) can of sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cups (350 ml) whole milk
zest from a small orange (or, if not using, 1 vanilla bean, scraped)
pinch salt
For the caramel:

  1. Have your 8-inch baking dish next to the stove — you’ll need is as soon as the sugar is done.
  2. Add the sugar to a small saucepan and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
  3. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it immediately and leave on boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Uncover and continue swirling the mixture until it becomes dark amber. (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately, and pour the caramel into your baking dish. Swirl the caramel around the pan before it sets (you’ll have to do this really quickly.) Set the pan aside.

For the custard:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Have a kettle of boiling water ready to go for the water bath.
  2. In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the milk, condensed milk, orange zest and a pinch of salt. Bring to a low simmer, making sure it doesn’t come to a rolling boil.
  3. Meanwhile, crack the egg yolks into a large bowl and whisk lightly.
  4. Whisk in the warm milk mixture. Make sure to add the milk in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly, otherwise the eggs will curdle.
  5. Pour the custard mixture over the caramel in the baking dish.
  6. Set the baking dish in a roasting pan and place in the preheated oven. Pour boiling water in the roasting pan until halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the flan is still jiggly in the dish (you don’t want it to be totally firm, otherwise the edges will be curdled).
  8. Let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  9. To unmould: Place the baking dish in a roasting pan filled with warm water, then loosen the edges of the custard. Turn the flan out onto a large plate. The caramel will pool around the custard.

Merry Christmas!
Cinnamon ornaments

Cinnamon Christmas ornaments

I know it’s a bit late to be posting a recipe for Christmas ornaments, but I figured if everyone is like me, you have another week of Christmas tree. These are a great way to keep the kids busy during that time off (or at least it will kill an afternoon of boredom), and they can be used next year as well.

My kids and I made these ornaments last year, and they, incredibly, still have a strong cinnamon smell. The Christmas tree smells amazing. We stored them in a plastic container with all the other Christmas ornaments. Just make sure not to eat them!

Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments
adapted from Martha Stewart Living
makes a couple dozen cookie-shaped ornaments

We decorated these with a standard royal icing, which also hardens and keeps really well.

For ornaments:
1/2 cup applesauce (120ml)
1/4 cup glue (such as Elmers) (60ml)
1 cup ground cinnamon (about 100g)

For icing:
1 large egg white
1-1/3 cup powdered sugar (150g)

  1. Mix all the ingredients together with a rubber spatula until it forms a dough.
  2. Turn out on a flat surface.
  3. Sprinkle a cutting board with a little bit of cinnamon, and roll 1/4 of the dough to 1/4-inch thickness.
  4. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Make sure to poke a hole in the ornament with a straw to make a hole for hanging them.
  5. Transfer the shapes to parchment paper. Dry in a 200 F (90 C) oven for 2 hours.
  6. Whisk together the royal icing ingredients.
  7. Decorate the ornaments with royal icing.

Cinnamon Christmas ornaments

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