"Kusina" = Kitchen; "Manang" = older sister

A Filipina's unabashed chronicle of her adaptations in the American kitchen. Includes step-by-step photos on how to make pan de sal, ensaymada, pan de coco, siopao, hopia, pandelimon, pianono, atsara, crema de fruta,etc., and if you are lucky, you will find videos too!

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Sayote Series Part 1. Growing Sayote

Sayote plants needing a strong and tall trellis
My Nanay got so excited with planting all the tropical veggies when it finally sunk in her system that we do grow our own food here at least during the summer....potatoes, some onions, sweet corn, cucumbers, beans, etc. When we got some sayote (Squash Chayote is how it is labeled in the grocery store here), we found some shoots, and my Nanay's eyes lit up. "Let's plant this!"
Sayote shoots already present
It was around April, and here in Maine April is still too cold for any tropical plant to be placed outside. I was looking at my Nanay thinking, "It would be easier to just get them from the grocery store since it might be too late to start the plant now." However, I did not want to dampen the excitement I saw in my Nanay's eyes. We just got some free seedlings of ampalaya (bitter gourd) and alugbati (Malabar spinach) that my friend Anna started, which my Nanay excitedly planted in pots and in the big veggie garden.  So, to humor my mom, I did plant the sayote in a pot (I made two) and kept them in the sunroom. By the time it was safe to transplant outside (after Memorial Day, when the danger of frost is usually over), it was over a foot tall. I placed a tomato cage around it then.
sayote shoots
I should have read more about sayote plant before I even transplanted those that I planted this year. Sayote plant can be very invasive. They need sturdy support like chicken wire perhaps, preferably about at least 5-ft high. Another issue is that, it takes a long time for them to bloom, such that the whole summer period here, all I got from my plants are the shoots/tops. Never saw a flower. That was the reason why I ended up googling for ways to cook its shoots. And I am glad an fb friend told me sayote leaves could be eaten, because when I actually tried, I loved it!

It has been months now...no signs of buds/flowers. By the end of September, it will be very cold already, and most plants will be dead or will barely survive if frost hits them. I was getting hopeless about getting fruits (I was dreaming, if indeed we get sayote fruits from these, then I would freeze them.).  Then when I posted photos of my veggies in the garden, a fb friend told me the shoots of sayote are good stir-fried.  I heard the same thing from my Nanay, although I have never had that before. I did try it for the first time with shrimps, and I was hooked! It was so good!

So at least for now, my sayote will be for cooking the shoots. I got two more sayote from the grocery store, which I plan to plant indoor to hopefully have a continuous supply of shoots (if I consume them fast enough before it takes over my whole sunroom, since they are very invasive and will climb on anything, apparently).

I planted the sayote in a pot about 2-gallon capacity, then I placed some wire support (you can use tomato cage. I used here the wire basket that came with the upside down tomato planter). This photo was taken tonight as I type this post. I am hoping that planting it during fall will give me flowers by May, and hopefully some fruits by July or August, which I can probably figure out a way to can for future use. (Canning produce makes the shelf life of such garden veggies longer, so it is cost-effective for me, not to mention I love knowing where my food comes from and how they were cared for.)
Shoot of sayote

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ginataang Alimasag (Rock Crabs in Coconut Milk)

Ginataang Alimasag (Alimango)
I have never seen crabs being sold here in my area. The first time I had crabs since I came to the USA was when my friend Cecilia gave me some, which she and and husband caught. That was back in 2009, I believe.

Since I started harvesting pole beans (sitaw), I have been daydreaming about eating ginataang alimasag with squash, sitaw, and pechay (bok choy). This morning as I was grocery shopping for more items for canning pickles, I got a butternut squash, thinking I might as well get shrimps to replace the alimasag in my craving. However, as I passed by the seafood area and happened to read the small note where the lobsters were, this was what I read: ROCK CRABS for $2.99/lb. I looked closer at the aquarium for the lobsters, and there I saw 3 crabs! Hah! I asked for 3 lbs of them, and the vendor told me that she was not sure if there were enough to reach 3 lbs. I told her I'd get all that she got. Turned out that she had only those 3 that I saw. Total weight was 3.66 lbs.

I hurriedly drove off, imagining the sequence of prepping the crabs, hoping they would still be alive when I get home. Which they were.

Uncooked crabs
3 rock crabs (almost 4 lbs)
onions (I used 3 small ones)
2 thumb-sized ginger, sliced
1 qt (4 cups) water or more
2 cups chunks of squash
1 can premium coconut milk (I use the Thai brand)
around 10  pole beans, cut short
1 bunch pechay (bok choy), cut in bite-size pieces
salt and pepper
dash of ground basil leaves (optional)
Note: You do NOT have to peel the squash. However tough the skin seems to be, once cooked, it is very tender (not to mention the extra fiber and nutrients you get from it).  Butternut squash cut in chunks only takes 10 minutes to cook, if you do not like it to turn into puree. If you cook it for 15 minutes, you might not end up with chunks in your dish, which is fine if you prefer such, just like my sister in Canada does.

Keep the crabs in some cold water while boiling the water with onions and ginger. While waiting for the water to boil, cut the squash. Once boiling briskly, place the crabs in the water and cover. Cook for 5 minutes while cutting the other veggies and add the squash. Cook for another 5 minutes and add sitaw and bok choy stems, some salt and pepper, and the coconut milk. Simmer uncovered for additional 5 minutes, then add the leafy parts of the bok choy, a dash of ground basil leaves, and cook further until the leaves are wilted.  Total cooking time for this was less than 30 minutes total. Enjoy with plain rice. Best eaten with another Filipino. (My hubby does not eat crustaceans like shrimps, lobsters or crabs, because these remind him of insects.  The rest of his family loves crustaceans.)

Enjoy with plain rice!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Reader's Photo Gallery #19

AS usual, I am very late in featuring my readers' photos here...I had to dig them up to post them here.

First, thanks to Joan C who emailed me on March 22, 2011:
from Joan C.
Thank u so much…it’s always nice reading ur foodblogs…it helps me improve my kitchen ability…and helps me cooking ulam too..hehe you are a genius! GOD bless u!

And Adin of It's Sewtastic, Mama for her email dated April 13, 2011:

Inday's baby enjoying ensaymada

Hello there Manang,

My name is Adin Blankenship and I am a Pinay in Kansas. I have been your follower for quite a long while now and the other day, the prego in me was craving for some really soft Ensaymada that I knew I can find the recipe in your website. I gave it a try using my new breadmaker and it turned out really well. It soft and moist and just delicious! Thank you so much! I have attached some photos of the ensaymada I made and my little boy who loves it a lot. He could not wait to eat them even the unbaked once. When I turned my back on him, he was trying to eat some of the unbaked dough and thought it was good. hahaha.. Silly kid!

Later on, I will be able to share it to my blog and have your link posted as well. My friends have been asking me of the recipe and I gave them your link because I know you would love for them to visit your site than just giving the recipe. :)

Thank you again,
Adin B

From Teresa's email dated June 25,

Dear Manang,

Thank you for sharing your recipe. It's easy to understand and follow . Texture and appearance-wise (in and out), the cupcakes came out perfectly nice; taste-wise, I guess, there's something missing, I just couldn't put my finger in it. I'll keep on tweaking it or continue researching and trying on other recipes and maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to figure it out.

Thanks again,
Orlando, Florida

From Reena who sent me an email on July 25th --
Hi Manang,
Thanks sa recipe ng hopia. This is the first trial of hopia :-)
My husband (Czech national) likes the hopia dough, super thanks po.

Actually, hindi na talaga ko makahintay na makapunta kami sa Asian Market.
Kaya ang ginamit ko na fillings ay 'kidney beans' in can, it has salt and sugar already pero syempre its more salty.

Anyway, i mashed it first and cooked with 1/2 cup of fresh milk, 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of sweetened condensed milk.

I really want to make it sweet kase salty un kidney beans.

Halo to the max for 30-45 minutes, hanggang maging dry...

Nkagawa naman ako... Next, i will use yellow mung beans (kase nka kita na ko sa Asian Market)

Thank you so much...




And lastly from Jimema McA:

Hello Manang,
Nais kung magpasalamat sa mga reciping binahagi mo sa iyong blog site.People like you encourages me to keep trying in the kitchen.I tried two of your recipe's and both of them came out good.I'm also married to a very fussy American husband,and when I made the ensaymada he asked me if I can top one with butter,cinnamon and sugar. To my surprised he ate the whole piece of ensaymada.It was the size as a saucer plate. And the choco-flan cake is excellent.
Once again Thank you so much and I'll be checking your blog more often.


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