Ube Macapuno Cheesecake

This Thanksgiving I wanted to add something truly Filipino to our table – to be precise our dessert table !

I made ube cheesecake a couple of years back and blogged about it here. The first time I made three miniature ones but on this occasion I made a slightly bigger one using a 7 inch spring form pan.

The key to making really good ube cheesecake is making your own ube jam or halaya. I usually make it one day ahead since it takes more time and effort than making the actual cheesecake itself. Make sure that you get the real Ube and not purple sweet potato or even the okinawan purple sweet potato. A lot of people think they are one and the same. Here is a short and simple primer on how to distinguish between the three. Below is a photo of ube from the market that my mom sent me while she was doing Christmas food shopping back home. Ube has a dark, course and almost hairy outer skin, it’s not pale like the okinawan purple sweet potato or red or purple toned like purple sweet potato.

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The one thing I did differently was placing the springform pan inside a much larger cake pan before placing in a water bath. I didn’t want to take the risk of water seeping through the foil into my cake. Sometimes even with three layers of foil, one can still get leaks or holes that are undetectable.

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After baking and letting it cool and set in the fridge. I carefully released it from the pan and topped it with macapuno (coconut strings). I again let this sit for at least an hour in the fridge before slicing and serving. This year’s Thanksgiving will always be remembered because of this ube cheesecake.

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Crispy Adobo Turkey Flakes

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and as expected we have leftovers. I did something totally new with it this time, I made adobo flakes.

I had my first taste of adobo flakes at Via Mare Cafe, where it was originally created by the owner Glenda Barretto. They serve this with garlic rice and egg. It’s like toasted chicken adobo that is extra crispy, crunchy and flaky. One usually makes this from leftover adobo. Since I didn’t have adobo just leftover turkey meat, I had to cook it into adobo first by adding 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup of combination of rice vinegar and cane vinegar, 1 tsp of ground black pepper, 2-3 bay leaf and 4-5 cloves minced garlic and about 1/4 cup water if needed. I let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Then let it cool and sit so that all the flavors and seasonings get absorbed.

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Then I strained the meat and flaked it with two forks. Then in a non-stick pan I fried or browned the turkey flakes in hot oil until crispy. Do this in batches, it takes around 10 minutes for the meat to become brown and crisped so make sure to continuously stir and cook over low heat.

I served this over my leftover wild rice with mushrooms and a sunny side egg. This will go very well with garlic rice too.

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Beef Mechado

Authentic Filipino beef mechado is a larded piece of beef that is braised in a mix of soy sauce, calamansi, tomatoes, ground pepper and bay leaf. The meat resembles that of a roast and when done it’s sliced into rounds.

In our family this is served most often for Sunday lunch at my maternal grandmother’s house or at home. Meals are always extra special during Sunday’s when everyone gathers after church services.

Nowadays, mechado has evolved into a kind of beef stew where meat is cut up into chunks. Probably for convenience and ease of cooking. Another possibility is that we have access to better quality beef since larding was primarily done as technique of adding fat to very lean and/or tough pieces of meat to make it flavorful.

To prepare mechado, you will need a pound and a half of beef chuck roast cut into cubes. Place this in a pot together with 1 large white minced onion, 4 chopped roma tomatoes, 2 ladle spoon of soy sauce, 1 tsp ground black pepper, bay leaves and a cup of water. Let this sit and marinate for a minimum of an hour in the fridge.

Then place this under medium high heat and let it come to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour or until meat is fork tender. Strain your beef from the liquid or broth. Get another pot and heat about 1-2 tbsp olive oil and saute 3-4 cloves minced garlic, cook until fragrant. Then add your beef and let it brown a bit. Pour in your cooking liquid and about 2 tbsp of tomato paste and one red bell pepper that has been chopped. Adjust seasoning as needed (you can use soy sauce or salt) Cook until sauce has thickened and reduced.

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We typically eat this with rice. I however tried something new and served it with quinoa as we are trying to cut back on carbs.

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Filipino Chop Suey (Vegetable Medley Stir Fry)

Filipino chop suey is just a colorful medley of vegetables that has been stir fried. Most often chicken, pork or shrimp is added. In my family chicken is the protein of choice. You can use any kind of vegetables you want; cabbage, carrots, celery, cauliflower, bell pepper and chicharo (snow peas) are the most popular.

For this recipe I didn’t add any kind of meat, instead I opted to use quail eggs and some fish cake.

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To make, in a large skillet or wok saute in 2 tbsp. oil 1 medium sized white onion finely chopped and cook until translucent. Add 3-4 cloves minced garlic and continue cooking until fragrant. Add your vegetable starting with the hardiest: 1 medium sized carrot cut into rounds, 1 small broccoli and cauliflower head cut into florets, a handful of snow peas. Let this cook until vegetables are crisp tender. Then add a can of young corn, a can of quail eggs and 1/4 cup fish cakes then carefully stir. Continue cooking for 2 – 3 minutes until heated through. Then place the following in a small bowl 1 tsp. cornstarch, 2 heaping tablespoon each of soy sauce and oyster sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil. and about 1/4 – 1/2 cup water. Mix until thoroughly combined. Pour this into your vegetable and cook until sauce has thickened. You may add more water if you think it’s a bit dry.

Serve immediately.

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Tofu Nanban

Nanban dishes are found in Japanese cuisine. It simply refers to anything that has or soaked in sweet and sour sauce. This has greatly evolved though and as with many Japanese dish it has foreign influence or roots, specifically Portuguese. They probably introduced sweet and sauce where vinegar is heavily used as a seasoning. It’s taste is similar to their escabeche.

To make you will need a block a of tofu. I used extra firm for this recipe because I prefer it’s texture. Cut into rectangular blocks, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Note: I wrapped these in paper towels for about 5-8 minutes to make sure extra moisture is removed.

Add enough oil to a small non-stick pan and place on medium high heat. Once it’s hot carefully add your tofu slices and fry until golden brown and crispy on the outside. This will take around 3-5 minutes per side. Set aside and drain on paper towels.

In another pan, add 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tbsp. rice vinegar, 2 tbsp. sugar, 2 tbsp. mirin and let it come to a boil, lower heat and add your fried tofu. Let the sauce soak into the tofu by flipping several times while allowing the sauce to thicken and caramelize a bit.

To serve, arrange your tofu slices in a plate and pour some tartar sauce on top. Add some side salad or any greens you prefer.

P.S. To make tartar sauce, I chopped 2 hard boiled eggs and added a couple of tablespoons of Japanese Mayo and a tsp. of sweet relish.

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Avocado Toast with Watermelon Radish

This blog can attest to the fact that I simply love Avocado toast. I have featured several versions using different combination of ingredients depending on my mood. On recents trips to New York City I have been intrigued by an unknown ingredient added to my salads. It looks like a brightly colored pink radish. I wasn’t sure what it was since I was unaware that there was really something like it. After doing some research on the internet, I was able to confirm that it was indeed a variety of radish – Watermelon radish to be exact.

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My next mission is how to get a hold of it. I know that I can easily get some at Union Square Market but it’s too much of a hassle to make a trip to NYC just for a radish. So after asking around, a friend mentioned that one of the vendors at our own Farm market will be having some soon. Last Saturday, I was finally able to snag a couple of these much coveted ingredient.

To make this Avocado Toast, I used a multigrain whole wheat bread as my base. To it I added some mixed leaf lettuce, then mashed avocado seasoned with lemon juice and salt. Topped with a poached egg and then garnished with several thinly sliced watermelon radish. I used a mandolin slicer to achieve the paper thin cut I wanted.

It does not only look pretty to eat but tasty as well.

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Miso Glazed Broiled Salmon Head

Fish heads are considered a delicacy are are eaten by most people in Asian countries. Unlike North America and Europe where clean and boneless filets are the preferred choice. Most fish heads are just thrown and are considered scraps. I have never seen fish heads sold in American groceries.

Asians however don’t let anything go to waste and learn to use all parts of the fish. In the Philippines, we always serve fish whole and very rarely have I seen fillets. So I learned to appreciate to eat seafood this way.

Salmon heads are particularly meaty and tasty. Filipinos love to cook it in soups specially sinigang which is a sour kind of soup.

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This time I chose to broil it which is an easy and convenient when you are pressed for time.

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To make, rinse and pat dry your fish heads with paper towels and place in a foil lined baking sheet. In a bowl combine 1 Tbsp. miso, 2 Tbsp. mirin, 2 Tbsp. cooking sake, 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. of organic brown sugar. Generously spread this mixture on both sides of the salmon head. Broil on high for about 15 minutes in total, flipping or turning once or twice. Cook until it’s nicely browned and caramelized on top. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

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