My Passion and My Steak….

Mom and I , when I was 2My mom always told us that in order to be successful, we must first find that one thing that ignites our interest, stirs up our passion, and tickles our imagination as to how far it can take us. To many people, finding that one thing takes a long time. To some, it comes as a surprise. To others, such as myself, it comes as a result of circumstance. Some time ago, I was attending school , like most kids. But my family decided that it was much better for me and my siblings to learn at home.

As a home schooler, I learned the word “pressure”, “catalyst” and “carbon dioxide” by sticking Mentos inside a bottle of Coke and watching it explode in our backyard.

Me and my siblings at Avilon zooI learned about the classifications of animals by going to Avilon Zoo, and taking notes from the tour guide.

I learned about divison by separating candies that my Papa brought home from his trips abroad into 5 of us siblings. I learned about fractions, estimates, units of measure, converting ounces to cups, and boiling points by cooking pasta , risotto,soup, etc.

As I learned Math, I also started to develop an interest in cooking. It often was the case that my mom, seeing my interest, started asking me to do things in the kitchen, such as making omelets for breakfast, cooking risotto for dinner or grilling steaks. Then my mom thought of having me and my brother audition for a cooking show for a major television network. It turned our world topsy turvy. From then on, I never looked back. Experiencing people other than my mom and my Papa criticize my cooking made me want to be better. Well, such were the circumstances that led me to the revelation of my passion for cooking.

But there was one dish that I had specific passion for- steaks. Now I will tell you about the week that was.

The Steaks Workshop

Not too long ago, I enrolled in Chef Ernest Gala’s Steaks, Salad, Pastas and Roasts course at Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary School.
Me, Chef Ernest Gala and other classmates

Me doing the sauceWhile waiting for Chef Ernest to arrive, we watched his shows on the television situated in the kitchen. Three friends whom I met there were curious as to my schooling, perhaps because it was a Tuesday and yet I was preparing to grill steaks rather than reviewing for a Math or Science quiz. I told them that I’m home schooled and that I love cooking. That day, we were cooking salads, pastas, roasts and steaks. I really love learning the different aspects of cooking, but my weakness lies in baking. Maybe I’m just not born for it.

We made three kinds of salads. I made a Festive Tuna, potato, beet and apple salad. One of my classmates made Hearty Mediterranean salad with anchovies, capers and feta cheese. My other classmates made the Special crab salad with creamy mayo. I learned that if balsamic vinegar isn’t available, we can use Knorr seasoning or worcestershire sauce. It changes the flavor but it’s good too.

Filets mignons with caper sauce
sizzling italian pork parmigiana topped with magnolia mozzarella cheese
Then we made filet mignons with caper sauce, sizzling Italian pork parmigiana topped with Magnolia mozzarella cheese, and Chateaubriand with Bernaise sauce. Last but not least, the Monterey roast rack of lamb with creamy cucumber sauce. I learned that when roasting, we must use a meat thermometer to know whether it’s over cooked or it’s still raw. I never used a thermometer at home, as I only used a wall clock and my gut feel.

We made pastas like Special Magnolia chicken spaghetti with 4 cheeses and Baked lasagna with ricotta and Magnolia cheese. I learned that in some countries, mozzarella cheese are colored white because they use carabao’s milk. In the Philippines, we have yellow mozzarella cheese because we use cow’s milk.

SALADS

Festive tuna, potato, beet and apples salad

Festive tuna, potato, beet and apple salad
This salad includes all purpose cream, salt and pepper, diced potatoes, beet, apples, pickle relish, onion and tuna. It is served with prepared lettuce and eggs.

I found the salad a little unusual because it had beets in it. It was my first time to eat beets . I actually thought that a beet is a fruit but it’s technically a root. The cream and beet combination gave the dish a subtle but intriguing taste.

Hearty Mediterranean with anchovies, capers and feta cheese
Hearty mediterranean salad with anchovies, capers and feta cheese

This salad includes baby tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovies, Feta cheese or Quick melt cheese, dill leaves (fresh) and peeled cucumber. There is also crushed garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper.

This salad is simple but good and tasty. I like the flavors of the olives and all the cheeses. I also like the cucumber because it’s sliced really thin.

Special crab salad with creamy mayo
Special crab salad with creamy mayo
This salad has iceberg lettuce, peeled cucumber, big salad tomatoes and boiled eggs. For the dressing it has MAGNOLIA mayo, HUNTS catsup, salt, pepper and PEOTRACO corn syrup .

The cucumber – tomatoes – boiled eggs combination gave a crunchy, sour and sweet taste..a taste that appealed to my mom’s palate.

ROASTS

Chateaubriand with Bernaise sauce
chateaubriand with bernaise sauce

Monterey roast rack of lamb with creamy cucumber sauce
monterey roast rack of lamb with creamy cucumber sauce

This ribs has crushed garlic, rock salt, Mc Cormick rosemary, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, olive oil. The sauce has cucumber, grated cheese, minced onions and salt.

I like the ribs because it’s tender and it’s well seasoned. The consistency of the sauce is perfect- not too watery, not too thick.

TENDER ROAST MONTEREY PORK BABY BACK RIBS WITH SPECIAL BARBECUE SAUCE

Tender roast monterey pork baby back ribs with special BBQ sauce
This baby back ribs has garlic, knorr seasoning, rock salt, mustard, molasses, chili powder and Hunt’s tomato sauce. The sauce has chopped onions, brown sugar, vinegar, HUNT’s tomato sauce, Lea and Perrins worcestershire sauce, knorr seasoning and salt and pepper.

I love the flavors of the chili and mustard plus the onions and the vinegar on the tender ribs.

PASTAS

BAKED LASAGNA WITH RICOTTA AND MAGNOLIA MOZZARELLA CHEESE
Baked lasagna with ricotta and magnolia mozzarella cheese

This lasagna has sausages, ground beef, salt, pepper, herbs, sugar, eggs and ricotta cheese, among others. I was not able to taste the lasagna because when we heated the lasagna at home, the glassware cracked in the oven!

SPECIAL MAGNOLIA CHICKEN SPAGHETTI WITH 4 CHEESES

Special magnolia chicken spaghetti with 4 cheese
This spaghetti has Magnolia butter, boiled chicken, cream, grated mozzarella cheese, grated quick melt cheese, Fontina cheese, grated provolone cheese, grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper….Loved this one too.

We had these dishes for dinner that day. It’s plentiful, very delicious and the taste is right on. I’ll give these dishes *****stars for the taste and **stars for the difficulty. (because it’s yummy but easy)

Now all this talk about food is starting to stir up my imagination again….I think I know what I'm gonna do today.

My great Moussaka and fries

I learned that the word Moussaka comes from Arabic language “Musaqqa’a”, meaning “chilled”. The Arab region is between Asia and South Africa. In Turkish it is spelled musakka but in other languages they call it eggplant casserole. In some countries they use tomato instead of eggplants.

I chose moussaka because I wanted to try to cook it on my own. My father also said ” Eco I want you to cook moussaka for dinner”. Then I asked ” why po?” he said “because it’s so delicious I want to eat Moussaka again”. So that’s why I cooked Moussaka for dinner.

When I was going to cook my Moussaka, I saw a lot of mess on the table. I can’t really prepare properly because my mother and sister were cooking leche flan cake. So I took the things that they didn’t need anymore and put it in the sink, then I prepared my Moussaka. I did not have the list of ingredients we used for Mousakka in my Mediterranean cooking class so I just did everything from memory.

Oregano leaf

Oregano leaf


Basil leaves

Basil leaves

First, I sliced the eggplant, mozzarella cheese, onion, garlic, oregano leaves and basil leaves. It was the first time I saw fresh oregano leaves because we always used the dried oregano from a McCormick bottle. It looked interesting with its pointy edges.

Me cooking the onions and garlic

Me cooking the onions and garlic


Second, I cooked the onions and garlic.

Third I put the ground beef, salt, pepper, sugar and cooked it until the meat is brown.

The stewed tomatoes and meat sauce

The stewed tomatoes and meat sauce


Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce

Fourth, I put the stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oregano leaves.

Me putting the eggplants

Me putting the eggplants

Fifth, I put the meat sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Then I arranged the eggplants on top of the meat sauce , followed by the ground beef with tomatoes. I put the mozzarella cheese on top and covered it with foil.

The mozzarella cheese

The mozzarella cheese

Me putting the mozzarella cheese

Me putting the mozzarella cheese

Then I put it in the oven and baked it for 45 min. Finally, I cooked fajita fries for 5 minutes until it was brown, in a deep frying pan on medium high heat. I served the Mousakka with fries but cooked rice too for anyone who likes that better. Mmmm….so delicious:-)

My Mousakka

My Mousakka


The Fajita fries

The Fajita fries


Now you know how to cook Mousakka. My father loved it so much, all he said was mmmmmmmmm…… My mother commented that the eggplants were sliced just right. They said it tasted almost the same as the one I cooked in my cooking class with Chef Ernest Gala. But mom liked it a bit more because it’s still hot and the cheese is still melted and bubbling. My siblings , specially my youngest sister really loved the mozarella cheese on top. She didn’t even notice the eggplants.

My youngest sister eating mousakka

My youngest sister eating mousakka

I will give my own Mousakka five stars out of five for the taste and 4 stars for level of difficulty because it took a lot of time.

Me tasting my home made Mousakka

Me tasting my home made Mousakka

The empty baking dish

The empty baking dish

THANKS FOR READING MY BLOG BYE OR ADIOS BLOG READERS :-D.

Mediterranean Cooking with Chef Ernest Reynoso Gala

Me and Chef Ernest Gala

Me and Chef Ernest Gala

As an aspiring chef, my mom said I had to try cooking and eating different kinds of food. We are big fans of Japanese food, so we eat at Yakimix a lot. One of the cuisines which we seldom have is Mediterranean food. Some of the few Mediterranean dishes I have ever tried was the Roka Salata, a delicious, memorable salad composed of fresh arugula, Romaine lettuce, toasted walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, pears, blue cheese, parmesan and Greek vinaigrette, and the Mixed Meat Gyros, or meat wrapped in pita bread. Papa brought these home from Cyma, a Greek restaurant at Trinoma mall, days before. So when I saw that Chef Ernest Gala was going to have a Mediterranean cooking class, I asked my mom if I could attend.

Mediterranean food originates from countries like Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Greece, Turkey and other cultures around the Mediterranean sea. Mediterranean diet is dominated by breads, rice, couscous, polenta, bulgur, and other grains, and potatoes.

Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, cheese, yogurt and olives are also common in meals. They eat little poultry, fish, eggs and sweets. They consume red meat only a few times per month, and they want it lean, not fatty. Wine and water are also an important part of Mediterranean diet.

Mom asked me to pose

Mom asked me to pose

I have never cooked Mediterranean food before, so last Saturday, July 2, 2011, I attended Mediterranean Cooking classes at the Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary Training Center at Shaw Blvd. I was happy and excited because not only was I going to cook something entirely new, I was also going to cook with a chef who is also a star. Chef Ernest Gala graduated at several prestigious chef schools all over the world. He is also a well-known chef in this country.

I learned many things in the class:
– If raw lamb is brown in color and smells bad , it means it’s already 9 months old.
– To ensure that meats (lamb, pork and beef) are tender, I must boil them first .
– While grilling always brush with marinade.
– The common ingredients in Mediterranean food are basil and oregano.

We cooked flame broiled pork baby back ribs, slow oven baked Monterey BBQ beef short ribs, oven-baked lamb riblets, moussaka and spanakopitas and tiropotas, Greek appetizers.

Orange Dutch Oven and Pressure cooker

Orange Dutch Oven Pans and Pressure cooker

We used cooking equipment that I have never used before , like pressure cookers and the orange dutch oven pans. We only used wok, non stick pan, pots, oven, and gas stove at home. We also used ingredients I have never used before, like feta cheese, molasses , lamb, and ricotta cheese.

Lamb riblets with baby potatoes

Lamb riblets with baby potatoes

Before I attended the cooking class, I thought that cooking lamb was hard, but it was really very easy.

BBQ Short Ribs

BBQ Short Ribs

While I was cooking my BBQ beef short ribs , Chef Ernest’s mother told me that I cooked like a professional chef. I felt happy that they called me a profesional chef. I remember another cooking class that I went to – the chefs said exactly the same thing.

Pork Baby Back ribs

Pork Baby Back ribs

We cooked the pork baby back ribs with pressure cookers – that’s why it turned out very tender. The sauce for the baby back ribs is interesting because it uses molasses, an ingredient used commonly in cuisines in the Middle East.

Spanakopitas/Tiropitas

Spanakopitas/Tiropitas


Can you say “spanakopitas”? My mom keeps saying it because she likes the sound of it. Spanakopitas are a Greek appetizer that has feta cheese, parmesan cheese, ham and onion, wrapped in a filo sheet and baked in the oven.

Tiropitas are also Greek appetizers wrapped in filo pastry and contains feta cheese, cream cheese, quickmelt cheese , ricotta , and cottage cheese, plus basil.

Waiting room

Waiting room

Mom waited for me to finish the 3-hour cooking class in the waiting room outside before coming inside to take photos of me.

We took home a generous amount of food after the classes. We had those for dinner, along with fried chicken that my Papa had cooked. The beef short ribs meat is hard outside but tender inside. Maybe it needs to be in the pressure cooker for a longer time. But the sauce is yummy. The lamb riblets are tender and the sauce is spicy, but I like it . Even my Papa likes it, although he thought he was eating beef :-). My mom’s favorite was the pork baby back ribs because it was tasty and tender. The vinegar and molasses combination gave it a sweet and sour taste.

My mom asked me what moussaka was and I said it was pasta, but it did not have pasta. What I meant was that it looked like lasagna because it has meat sauce in it and had cheese on top, but it had no pasta. Instead it had egg plant and onions. I guess that’s why it’s called Greek style lasagna. I wasn’t really sure if we were supposed to eat it with rice or just eat it on its own. The moussaka was my baby sister’s favorite because it had lots of cheese.

It was my mom’s and my siblings’ first time to eat these kinds of Mediterranean dishes. My mom says I will enroll in Chef Ernest’s class again next week. I guess she liked the food I took home.

Mediterranean Cooking with Chef Ernest Reynoso Gala- Two thumbs up!

My Rainy Day Champorado

Typhoon Falcon lorded the skies that morning of June 25. Papa was not able to do the groceries due to the heavy rains the past few days, so mom wanted me to make something out of what we had – sort of my own little invention test. She asked me if we had the things we needed to make champorado. I looked into the old refrigerator where we stock our food supplies. Then I saw that we didn’t have everything but we had a few promising things….

Rice, Sustagen and milk

Rice, Sustagen and milk

Vanilla and Sugar

Vanilla and Sugar


We didn’t have sticky rice but we had leftover japanese rice from two months back, begging to be taken out of its misery. We didn’t have enough chocolate tablets for a decent champorado but we had our staple drink – SUSTAGEN choco. We didn’t have white sugar but we had brown. We didn’t have anchovies so we asked our grandmother down stairs if she had some. Luckily, she did. Here is how I made my Rainy Day Champorado:

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups Japanese rice
6 chocolate tablets
4 tbsp. Sustagen powder
1/2 cup of brown sugar
7 cups of water: 6 1/2 cups of water for rice ; 1/2 cup of warm water for chocolate tablets
condensed milk (optional)
1/2 cup of dried anchovies (dilis)
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Boil the water

Boil the water

First, I boiled 7 cups of water. When the water is already hot and before it boils, I take 1/2 cup of water and set it aside. (It’s better to use the boiled water to dissolve the tablets but my mom said it is safer to take the water before it boils)

Dissolve the cocoa

Dissolve the cocoa

Second, I dissolved the choco tablets in the 1/2 cup of hot water that I set aside in the previous step.

Add the rice

Add the rice

Third, I put the japanese rice in the boiling water and let it boil for a few minutes.

Add the cocoa

Add the cocoa

Add the sustagen

Add the sustagen

Fourth, I put the chocolate tablets and the Sustagen powder in the boiling water and stirred continuously for 12-18 minutes.

Add the sugar

Add the sugar

Fifth, I put the brown sugar.
Sixth, I added vanilla extract.

Cook the dilis

Cook the dilis


Seventh, I pan fried the anchovies.
Serve

Serve

Finally, I placed the champorado on a bowl and put condensed milk and anchovies on top.

TIP: next time make sure to mash the chocolate tablets because it’s going to take a long time to melt.

My family started to assemble on the dining table before I was done cooking.
As we devoured the chocolate dish in front of us, Typhoon Falcon kept on pounding our rooftops, sending some amount of rain beside our dining table, through the holes on the metal sheet which covered our heads. It was something we’d shrug off, and maybe forget when the sun comes out again, then remember once again when rain comes pouring in on the next typhoon that comes along.

But that hardly matters specially this morning, as the family feasted on that delightful, makeshift champorado I started to cook 30 minutes ago.

As these things went on in my mind, I reached for the pot for a second serving, but just like everybody else, was disappointed to see that everything was gone in about 5 minutes. My mom had the least amount, as always, serving everybody else before herself.

The weather was cold and damp, but I felt warm and full. It might be because we still had a roof on our heads, when others were not as fortunate. Maybe it was the champorado that magically came to be out of nothing. Most definitely, it was the family , imperfect as it was, that took away the stormy feeling that pounded my spirit in the weeks before.