Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Visit to God's Grace Farm

A visit to God's Grace Farm was indeed a blessing and a privilege. Gigi Uy sent me a personal message last week if J could take pictures of the farm. J was hesitant since he only takes photos of students from schools and people from events. J was honest enough to say even before that he is not creative when it comes to taking other photos. But I told him to give it a try. Two days later we're off to the farm with Gigi. But I told John the night before that I think he should go alone since I might have difficulty with Nate but he encouraged me to go with him.

I've never met Gigi nor have I been to the farm but I've met her vegetables. When I finally met her, I finally realized why her vegetables are of the highest quality. Sitting in front, she started to talk about why she is doing all of these things in relation to being Certified Organic - the packaging, the location of the farm, the nutrients needed for the soil, the compost and many others. Yes, the produce are expensive compared to the regular ones but after explaining to me the manual things that needs to be done in order for the vegetables to be at the utmost quality, I have no more doubts about it. There are no shortcuts. But honest to goodness hard work and dedication, sweat and tears are given to the farm. As a matter of fact, everything is attention to detail.

When we arrive at the farm, I thought, she should charge more for what she's been doing. But her true desire is to really provide excellent quality produce to her clients. First stop was the Aiko and medley tomatoes. It was the only place that I could have a good look up close and personal. If the pathway is a bit bigger, it would have been a great wedding aisle to walk down to. Nate, although turning red from the hot weather, enjoyed his bite of the tomatoes. And yes, he wants to grab more of it while J is busy taking pictures all over the farm.

As we walked uphill, I could see a lot of papaya trees scattered all over the land. And don't miss a row of rosemary and lavender pots displayed below the Aiko tomato greenhouse. From afar, I could see the mizuna and some Thai basil herbs but I have to stay put in the middle of the path or else Nate and I would have a hard time going around the farm. The trip was exhausting for me most especially with Nate around. I went home tired with a headache while Nate was still very active and actually slept late. I want to visit the farm again for its progress. I'm certain Gigi has a lot of crops to plant as the days and months go by. There are still a lot of work that needs to be done but the farm is organized and clean. In addition to supplying to supermarkets, she's also supplying her vegetables in Manila and this is just the beginning.

Below are some photos that J took at the farm. There are more pictures though at God's Grace Farm Facebook Page where Gigi explained what's going on with the farming process. But for now, just enjoy the photos.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Stir-Fried Thai Eggplant and Tomatoes

Working at home is like working at the restaurant. While Nate is taking a nap, I have about 1-1/2 to 2 hours to do things before he wakes up. Sometimes even less than 1-1/2 hours to prep, cook and clean without making that much noise.

I still have some Thai eggplants and tomato medley from Gigi (God's Grace Farm) and I need to cook it on that day while they are still fresh. Using the same ingredients but with different flavor profile, I decided to do a stir-fry. With a carbon steel wok, stir-frying is so much easier provided that the wok is heated properly. For as long as your mise en place is ready, the cooking part is much easier that doing all the preparation.

I added some Oriental flavors to the dish such as ginger, soy sauce, shao xing wine and basil. These are the ingredients used for the dish called "Three Cups Chicken" except I didn't add sesame oil and fresh chilies. With warming ingredients, it may not be appropriate for summer but it's a dish that it's quick and easy to make.

Stir-Fried Thai Eggplant with Tomatoes

Makes 4 servings

2 inch piece ginger
6 pieces garlic cloves
450 grams green Thai eggplant
450 grams yellow Thai eggplant
400 grams cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp shao xing wine
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp black vinegar
30 grams basil leaves
2 tbsp vegetable oil

To start the dish, peel and mince the ginger and garlic. Cut the top ends of the eggplant cut into halves or quarters while leaving the cherry tomatoes whole. Measure out the brown sugar, wine soy sauce, black vinegar and basil.

To cook the dish, heat the wok over high heat. When the wok is hot, add the oil. Swirl the wok to coat the surface with the oil. Add the eggplant and stir-fry until they are half done. Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and stir to coat the ingredients allowing it to caramelize. Deglaze with wine and soy sauce. Bring the dish to a simmer, cover and cook until the eggplants are done. Then add the basil and stir until just wilted. Serve with Jasmine rice.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thai Coconut Eggplants

Curry is the first thing I wanted to make when I received these generous amount of Thai eggplants from Gigi Uy. I might have the blender, the food processor and the mixer but I am missing one tool that is important in making Thai red or green curry, and that is the mortar and pestle. I could have use the food processor but it's not the same with a mortar and pestle. Aside from that, I don't have coriander seeds on hand. I was also out Tuesday afternoon to help J take food photos for his client and I needed something quick and easy to make. I always rely on this recipe from Rouxbe Online Cooking School.

With kaffir lime, ginger, lemongrass, chili and coconut milk, it has the flavors of Thai cuisine yet simpler to make. The sauce can be made ahead of time and it goes well with firm white fish, chicken, beef, pork, prawns, tofu and vegetables. The Thai eggplants are perfect with the sauce as the eggplants would soak up the gravy-like flavorful liquid. J wants the dish drowning with a lot of sauce. The yellow eggplant would cook until they're really tender while the green ones would add some texture to it. I haven't been to Thailand, so thank you Gigi Uy for the supply and generosity. I also added some tomato medley also from God's Grace Farm and some leftover pan-fried tofu to complete the dish. Even if you don't like spicy food, don't skimp on the chilies. It needs that spicy kick along with the sweet, sour, salty, pungent taste all infused together in a creamy coral-hue coconut sauce. 

When the sauce has been reduced, you can simply add the prepared ingredients and cook them until they're tender but I like to stir-fry the whole tomatoes in a carbon steel wok for the smokey sweet flavor. I did the same thing with the eggplant. If you can't find galangal, just use ginger and if there's no Thai basil, just use the basil that is available. The dish still rocks and make sure you Jasmine rice to go with it.

My plan didn't turn out the way I want it. This dish was made on a Wednesday morning before lunch while Nate was still taking a nap. I didn't have the recipe as well because internet was down. It's good to have a recipe as a guide but there' freedom when you cook a dish using your five senses. Honestly, I don't know if the recipe below would have enough sauce for the amount of vegetables given. But the sauce can be doubled and tripled. 

Thai Coconut Eggplants with Tomato Medley and Tofu
(Sauce adapted from Rouxbe Online Cooking School

3 large shallots
2 stalks lemongrass
2" -inch piece galangal or ginger
2 tbsp peanut oil'
2 small Thai chilis
1 tbsp palm sugar (can substitute with white sugar)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste

400 g green Thai eggplant
400 g yellow Thai eggplant
250 g tomato medley
2 pcs 2-inch square tofu

Thai basil leaves, or to taste
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

To start the sauce, mince the shallots and the white part of the lemongrass. Set aside. Roughly chop the galangal.

Heat a deep-sided saute or fry pan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the shallots, lemongrass, galangal and whole Thai chilies. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes or until the shallots are translucent. Next, add the palm sugar and tomato paste. Cook for a minute before adding the coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and salt. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer. Cook uncovered for approximately 20 minutes. The sauce will reduce and thicken slightly.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Cut the top end of the eggplant and cut into halves or quarters. I left the tomato medley whole. Next, cut each tofu into 4 piece triangle. If you have time, you can marinade the tofu in soy sauce and garlic powder for 15 minutes each and pan fry in a bit of oil until lightly brown.

Once the sauce as thickened, heat a wok over high heat and add a bit of oil. Stir-fry the tomatoes until they are slightly charred on the outside. Transfer to a plate. Do the same thing with the eggplant. Add the eggplant, tomatoes and tofu into the sauce and simmer until the eggplants are tender. 

When the eggplants are already tender, chiffonade the basil and add to the dish. Serve the dish with Jasmine rice and wedge of lime. 


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