Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Beyond Burgers, Baked Beans & Beer

Isn't amazing when you stumble across the extraordinary in the ordinary? I was at a BBQ last weekend. The host was a former co-worker of Steve's whom I had met briefly on a few occasions. His wife was welcoming and the guests friendly. We sat at a round patio table and chatted about the usual get-to-know-you hot the summer had been, where each of us lived, Do you have kids? and how we knew the host or hostess.

The table I sat at groaned with an assortment of sour-cream laden dips, a variety of chips, a tray of deviled eggs, a delectable platter of rice balls (fried and filled with mozzarella cheese) and for the main meal...all American burgers and hot dogs. All good, all tasty.  But while everyone filled their plates with the usual couldn't get enough of a Filipino dish, a cuisine I'd never eaten before, that a neighbor brought. It was light and delicious, filled with shredded chicken, thin slivers of carrots and rice noodles. So being a true foodie, I hunted cookbooks, the Internet and other resources until I found the recipe for that particular dish.

Filipino food can be described best as a mixture of eastern and western influences that provide a range of rich flavors, color and spices, making Filipino cuisine unique and tempting. It evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origins to a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American, and other Asian influences adapted to indigenous ingredients and the local palate.  It's not spicy and is distinguished by its bold combination of sweet, sour and salty flavors. There's an endless array of dishes that use thinly sliced beef, suckling pig, peanut sauce, coconut and seafood that include catfish, mackerel, crabs, prawns, and oysters.

One widely cooked dish is adobo. It usually consists of pork or chicken in a sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, oil, garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Filipino soups tend to be hearty containing chunks of meat and vegetables or noodles. For noodle dishes there is pancit and ispageti. Pancit boasts noodles, vegetables, and slices of meat or shrimp with variations distinguished by the type of noodles used such as rice or flour. Desserts may consist of mamon, a chiffon-type cake sprinkled with sugar or bite-size buchi made of deep-fried rice flour dough balls filled with a sweet mung bean paste and coated with sesame seeds. (adapted from wikipedia)

There is a wide variety of drinks in the Philippines. The traditional tuba still remains in provinces, which is also used as vinegar if fermented. In addition, brandy, gin and rum are the local favorites as well as a shake that consists of fresh fruit blended with milk, ice and sugar. Chilled drinks and cocktails with tropical fruits are popular during summer. Tea is made from ginger, lemon grass and pandan leaves. (

After researching, I found that the dish I had at the BBQ is called, Pancit Bihon.  So this is the recipe, I'd like to share. It wasn't difficult to prepare and to make it easier, I used 3 cups of rotisserie chicken I purchased from the supermarket. I, also, picked up a package of pre-shredded fresh green cabbage that contained carrots and red cabbage, too. Be sure not to use bagged Cole slaw. I omitted the celery and just before serving, spooned out the liquid into a bowl to be served at the table. I did this because the Pancit Bihon at the BBQ was dry and I wanted my meal to be as close to the original as possible.

**A note about recipe photo...Filipinos do not use chopsticks. Traditionally, like those from India, they use their fingers to scoop food, esp. dry food, into their mouths (see my blog- Indian Cuisine: A Feast For The Senses) but the primary pairing of utensils used at a Filipino dining table is a spoon and fork not knife and fork. Personally, I enjoy using chopsticks with food that have an Asian flare, so I did with this dish...besides, the chopsticks looked decorative on the plate.

Pancit Bihon

1 pack (8 oz) pancit bihon noodles (rice sticks)
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cabbage, sliced into strips
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/3 cup scallions, cut into pieces
1 carrot, sliced into strips
3/4 cup diced celery
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cooking oil

Soak the pancit bihon noodles in hot, lightly salted water to soften for 10 minutes or follow package directions.
Grease a large pan or wok with oil. Sauté garlic and onions.
Add the chicken broth, shredded chicken breast and all the vegetables until cooked.
Mix in the pancit bihon noodles and add the soy sauce.
Cook for about 5 minutes or until the noodles are soft.
Serve hot with sliced calamansi on the side. Calamansi or lemon is to be squeezed into the pancit bihon before eating
Serves 4. Prep & cook time 45 min.
**Remember to Make Memories At The Table

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

To Catch A Husband Cake

The recipe to this story is the Husband Catcher Cake. In honor of this theme, I'd like to share two short stories of Happy Endings.

Mom had been dating a young man, Peter, when she was in her early twenties. He was a nice guy whose parents were friends of Mom's parents. As swell as Peter was, there weren't any "sparks", and this was a blessing for 4 important people in our lives.

One day, Peter's mom, Tess, took my mother aside and said, "Eugenia, Peter is a fine young man and I love him, but he's not the one for you. Wait until you meet my other son, Paul, he's the one." My mom smiled and nodded politely.
Shortly after, there was a party in which my mom attended. She sat in a corner drinking punch with Peter at her side when suddenly a handsome man wearing "Dress Whites", a US Navy uniform, made an entrance. Mom felt as if no one but the sailor and she were in room, her heart quickened and her pulse drummed in her ears.
"Paul!" Peter exclaimed rushing to the soldier's side and pulling him toward Mom. Introductions were made, and it was love at first touch for both of them.

The only dilemma... Mom didn't want to "drop" Peter and hurt his feelings, even though there wasn't a real commitment between them. The solution? Nina, mom's first cousin, was pretty, fun and available. Mom just knew that Nina and Peter would be a good match. And it was...they hit it off from the start. The two couples were inseparable and walked down the aisle not long afterwards.

I once asked Dad what attracted him to Mom...with a twinkle in his eyes, he said, " she had a shapely derriere and boy-oh-boy could she cook!" Spoken like a I think if Mom had to resort to "dolci" she'd have baked, The Husband Catcher Cake, and snagged him in a blink!

The second story is short and sweet and true, and it was the lucky lady in the story who gave me the Husband Catcher recipe.
Chris was crazy for Tommy, but he paid little attention to her. He was quite popular. She was determined to win his heart and brought this chocolate-to-die-for cake to a party they were both attending. Near the end of the evening, she cut a slice and sweetly offered it to him. He took her home that night and they've been married for over 30 years, happily I might add.  The End.

Husband Catcher Cake

2 cups of all purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
6 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup of vegetable oil **no substitute
2 Tablespoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream diluted in 1 cup of milk
1/2 cup hot water

1 well-greased Bundt pan
Preheat oven 350 degrees
Stir all the ingredients together *except the vanilla extract* with 1/2 cup of hot water
*Do NOT mix with an electric mixer.  Batter should be loose/soupy
Add vanilla extract. Stir
Pour batter into well greased bundt pan
Bake 40-50 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean

*Remember....Make Memories At The Table