Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fresh Cheese, Cherry Preserve and Basil Sandwich


I made this sandwich when I started to feel hungry last Saturday afternoon. At first, I made it only with cherry preserves which I’m supposed to use as a filling for the chocolate cake. Then, the other day, I added some slices of cheese. Finally yesterday, I added some basil leaves. I have some leftover roast chicken and I also thought of adding it. Although the bread is high in fiber, it’s not the type of bread for thick sandwiches. The bread is also a bit on the thin side. So, I’ll just use the roast chicken for something else.

cherry preserve

I’m still looking for a good artisan hand-crafted bread but so far I haven’t found one.There are breads available that are made that way but I’m still not satisfied. After a day or two, they usually end up really dry. Multi-grain bread is good but I’m not looking for low-fat, low-calorie type of bread that doesn’t have any flavor. Filipinos have a sweet tooth so most loaves of bread sold at the supermarket and bakeries are on the sweet side.

fresh local cheese

For the cheese, I am using our local cheese called “Kesong Puti", literally means "cheese white". Let’s just call it local white cheese. It has the flavor and texture of buffalo mozzarella although the consistency could be somewhat on the crumbly side if you mash it with a work but it can also hold its shape very well. It is made from carabao's milk and is usually a filling for freshly baked pan de sal. But it can also be used in cooking as well.

cherry, basil, cheese

I actually like the combination of the three: something sweet and tart from the cherry preserves, something mild and creamy from the cheese and something fresh and pungent from the basil. I also season the cheese with unrefined sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Then I spread a little bit of butter on the other bread just to make sure that the cheese doesn’t slide off easily. You can substitute the cherry preserve and the cheese for something else and create a whole new different flavor. I guess a recipe is not necessary. Just make sure it's a good bread, a good cherry preserve, fresh basil and your local fresh cheese.


You can call me a minimalist, but I’ve learned that sometimes you can still make a gourmet sandwich out of a few good ingredients. To me, that’s already an effortless gourmet sandwich. What do you think?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chickpeas: Dried vs Canned

cooked chickpeas
Cooked (dried) chickpeas

I love the versatility of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). So versatile that they're always available at the supermarket. You can use them in any dish in almost every cuisine. Dried chickpeas are hard to find here unless you visit a health food store. But once I got a hand of them, I prefer soaking and cooking chickpeas than buying a can from the supermarket except if I don’t have any other options. With canned chickpeas, all you have to do is grab your indispensable can opener and open the can and voila, chickpeas are ready to use. But cooking dried chickpeas allows the flavor to burst that doesn’t come from canned chickpeas which has been sitting in salted liquid for ages.

chickpea copy

Dried chickpeas

I know not everyone has the time to soak chickpeas. Actually, you do have the time to do other things while the chickpeas are soaking in water. Because all you need to do is to add enough water to soak the chickpeas and leave it. I leave it overnight, about 8-10 hours. One cup of dried chickpeas allowed to soak in water will fill up a 4-cup measuring liquid container. Drain and rinse the chickpeas after soaking. Place them onto a large pot and filled with room temperature water halfway plus about a third more liquid. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer. Skim off the foam floating to the top. Cover the pot partially and cook until the chickpeas are tender. Then season with salt when they are almost tender. Cooking time would vary. Some cookbooks would suggest cooking them for 3-4 hours, while others would require 2 hours. I cooked mine within an hour. I also save the cooking liquid in making soups.

soaked chickpeas1

Soaked (dried) chickpeas

If you’re planning to use chickpeas to make hummus or a puree of chickpea soup or even used in salads, I would suggest to cook your own as you want the clean and fresh taste of the chickpea. Canned chickpeas may be best used in hearty soups or stews where there are other ingredients present.

canned chickpeas

Canned Chickpeas

The cooked dried chickpeas have indeed a pure and wholesome taste. They have a hint of sweetness if you chew them well. They are bigger in size and darker in color. The canned chickpeas have been tainted with other compounds coming from the tin itself and the way it was cooked so the taste is somewhat ruined. They are smaller in size and lighter in color. When it comes to texture, cooked dried chickpeas are softer while the canned chickpeas are harder. But then again, chickpeas vary in size and color. But we're also talking about between dried and canned.

Both dried and canned are welcome in the kitchen. Sometimes you can't control your circumstances and you are only left with canned chickpeas. But as of now, I would take advantage of the availability of dried chickpeas and cooking them my own and hopefully, they are available all the time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gorgeous Beets and Lentils

beets and lentils

Beets are one of those underrated root vegetables. They don’t really get that much attention here. As far as I know, even if they’re sold in the market, I only get to eat them at home. Beets are wonderful and once you’ve tried it a few times, you’ll want to cook with it more often. Unfortunately, we only have one type of beets which is the red variety. The only difference is the size. I used to hate beets but I really like them right now. They have this intense beautiful, vibrant purple-red color. It also has a rich and deep flavor and they are always best paired with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice to bring out its flavor. These beets are cooked with onions, garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The moment you remove the foil, a wonderful bouquet scents your kitchen leaving you refreshed and uplifted.


The recipe states lentils but I used French green lentils or “lentilles de puy” which are darker in color and smaller in size. I think these dark jewels add substance and earthiness to the dish. To cook the lentils, I used 2-1/2 cups of water for every cup of lentil for about 30-45 minutes, adding more water if necessary. They don't need to be soaked as could get mushy. Just pick through the stones and they're ready to cook. To make this a vegetarian dish, substitute chicken stock with water. The lentils will still be full of flavor.

puy de lentils

Another ingredient that I needed to add is wakame, which is a sea vegetable commonly used in miso soup. They are high in minerals, it cleanses the blood and it balances the hormones. If you don’t like wakame or if the taste is quite strong for you, you won’t notice it when you combine it with the beets, lentils and the dressing. I thought they’re a pretty good match. I used about 1/3-1/2 cup dried cut wakame. Soak them in water for about 8-10 minutes, drain and gently squeeze the excess water. Cut into smaller pieces if desired. Save the wakame liquid to water your plants.


The dressing is pretty strong on its own but when you combine it with the rest of the ingredients, you might need to add more red wine vinegar or lemon juice and few pinches of unrefined sea salt. Some extra basil leaves would be great too.


Here is a link to the recipe for Emily’s Purloined Beet and Lentil Salad. Serve it with mesclun greens or grilled salmon. They are also great for potluck. If you want to upgrade this dish, goat's cheese would be a superb addition. Just add them a la minute. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Up Close and Personal

When I first learned about Rouxbe Online Cooking School. almost 2 years ago, I thought this is the finest online instructional cooking on the the web today. There are a lot of things that I've learned on this website that I didn't learn in culinary school and through my experiences. You'll get an up close and personal relationship with food as they show you the skills and technique behind each recipe. You may have a library of cookbooks at home but if you don't have the foundation, you won't produce results. Joe Girard and Dawn Thomas, co-founders of Rouxbe, along with their talented and hard working team makes every thing possible to deliver first class videos for every recipe.

When I first submitted my Lemon-Coriander Prawns recipe to their test kitchen, I never thought it would be chosen to be filmed as a Rouxbe video last year. Here's a preview of my first ever video recipe and hopefully, not the last.

You may also want to check out their online cooking school which is making an impression all over the world. They partnered with Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver which is owned and managed by my two former chef instructors, Tony Minichiello and Christophe Kwiatkowsky.

Check it out and you'll never cook the same way again.