Friday, February 19, 2010

A Throw-It-All-In Version of Alla Matriciana

My mother always told me that a woman, a married woman, especially, should know how to cook. No, no, it's not one of those "A Man's Heart (and your mother-in-law's) is Through the Stomach" lectures. It was more of a lecture on how to keep your man (it's strange, I know, but...whatever).

She told me that women who do not know how to cook are merely "Mujeres Por La Cama" which means, "women for bed." A woman must know how to entertain a man in and out of bed, in the kitchen included. She must know how to entertain his friends, stand her ground, work for her own funds and generally run a tight ship at home.

Frankly, I've no time to cook and recently, Allan's schedule and mine doesn't really allow us to sit down and have a normal meal. We would usually just buy food on our way home and eat that together. So I thought: "I'm being such a loser of a partner these days...I'll cook Alla Matriciana this Saturday!"

The text part is becoming long, so let's get us some pictures!

Bacon. A little background, Alla Matriciana is actually uses Guanciale. It's an Italian smoked bacon made from the pig's cheeks. What's so good about it is the yummy gelatinous goodness, malinamnam-ness of it. You really can't substitute just plain bacon and get the same taste, but it'll work. I tried scouring four different groceries and found no guanciale. I think I have to go to Galileo Enoteca or Santis to get some of that. And the trip is not something I wanna make. Besides, I wanted this to be a quick, whatever's-in-the-fridge meal. But if you can get guanciale, go get. The bacon here is just Purefoods, the smallest pack.

Canned WHOLE Tomatoes with the juice from the can.I used just one can. In the picture I already diced the tomatoes, but be sure to get whole ones. Italian tomatoes (San Marzano brand) is better, but it's expensive. I used Hunt's whole tomatoes and it's great. I guess you're asking why get whole tomatoes then dice them, when there's canned diced tomatoes and simply just tomato sauce? Whole tomatoes are better because they still have shape. You buy diced tomatoes and the contents of the can would look like a chunky puree. You will want to actually SEE that there's tomato in your dish (adds to the appeal) and not some red stuff, hence no tomato sauce. Besides, canned whole tomatoes have a fresher and lighter taste than tomato sauce. But either will work. I wouldn't get stewed tomatoes though, that's tasty but since it usually has celery and peppers in it, it won't be good for this recipe.

Pasta, of course. You can use your favorite brand and type for this recipe. However, you'll need to adjust the soupiness of the sauce when using tube pastas. I used San Remo, but that's because it's on sale and Momma told me never to pass up on sales of basic necessities. I cook mine for around seven minutes only, al dente, meaning the pasta still has to be THIN and not engorged. Salt the water, but no oil.

Spices. I used Italian seasoning (marjoram, sage, thyme, rosemary and something else I can't remember), basil and a little bit of weed. Kidding, that's dried oregano. I would have used fresh basil, but the stash in the fridge is black already, and the oregano in the garden was feasted on by our dog. But fresh is best! A friend gave me a whole army of McCormick spices during Christmas, so why not? Since this is just for two people, I put in a small palmful of basil and oregano and one and a half small palmful of Italian seasoning.

Of course, there's garlic and a bit of chili flakes. But no onion please! The original recipe does NOT have onions, so since I've bastardized this recipe with the bacon, I prefer not to add salt to the injury.


First, brown the bacon. Some will want their bacon crispy, but we like ours a little chewy, so it's up to you. If you crisp it up, though, drain some of the oil before adding olive oil. After that, add your garlic.

Once the garlic is cooked and aromatic, add the tomatoes. I would add some wine, to deglaze the pan, but we've no red wine in the house (larder is practically empty during the weekend). In any case, the tomatoes will deglaze the pan anyway.

Once it starts to bubble, add the spices. You can also add some pepper at this point. A note on pepper, freshly ground pepper tastes much better than the already powdered ones you buy in stores. However, I don't have a pepper mill myself *cough birthday August 14 cough* so I just buy whole peppercorns and grind them myself with a good ol' wine bottle everytime I cook.

Let the whole thing cook and simmer. You'll know it's done when the oil starts to separate from the sauce. It doesn't have to be dry, but it shouldn't be too soupy, too.

So, what else should we do at this point? Toss the pasta!

Traditionally, you top it with pecorino romano. But a lot of restaurants use parmesan, so that will work as well.

A tip on buying hard cheeses, some groceries sell cheese by the gram, or by wedges. Get those than those shake-'em things in plastic containers. Nothing very bad about those, but say, 250g of cheese will yield a lot of grated cheese, much more than what's in those plastic container, so they're better value.

Allan said that it's the best pasta he's had (maybe he doesn't want to do the dishes) but he finished up a lot of it. It's really good, seriously. You can't go wrong with bacon and tomato.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Droste Holland Pastilles

It's Valentines, and even though we're not really that kind of couple, I do still get that craving for chocolate. So while in the grocery the other day, Allan picked out his beloved M&M's (he hates toblerone but loves M&M's) I picked Droste Holland Pastilles (in the check-out counter display, talk about impulse!). I got the Extra Dark, 75% chocolate. I was thinking it's 75% cocoa, for only Php80, so maybe it's gona be crap tasting, but what the hell?

Turns out, it doesn't taste like crap at all. In fact, it's pretty good. Much better value for money than the Php88 per piece of some "Fine" Venezuelan chocolate truffle I bought in Cacao in SM North Annex. Php88 per piece for chocolate the size of my thumb. I was somehow tricked to buy that.

Anyway, back to Droste. It is definitely not the high end stuff but there is that snap that characterizes good chocolate from bad ones. It's appropriately bitter for 75% and melts just like any good chocolate. For one, it does have a sort of metallic or astringent aftertaste, but it's very faint. For the money you pay for one tube, it's a deal.

The packaging is convenient, too. The tube is easy to pack. I love the fact that it comes in tablets, because it's really too much for one sitting. I ate I think 5-6 pieces, and Allan ate I think 3. There's more left over. One tube I think has 12-5 pieces. I didn't count though, so this may be off the mark.

This may not replace the place of Valrhona or even Lindt in my heart, but this is definitely chocolate that I will buy more often.

Today, Kenny Rogers

We went back to SM North to get our router replaced. It was a real freaking bummer because I didn't want to leave the house today. But the router we got just the day before was not working so we have no choice.

We finally get the store to give us a replacement. It was past noon (actually closer to 4pm) and without lunch, we are definitely needing a big meal. We settled for Kenny Rogers.

I have to tell you that Kenny Rogers is pretty much an old reliable. When we're at a mall and we're not feeling anything fancy, but want real food (meaning not Jollibee or Mcdo) we go to Kenny Rogers. Not very cheap, but good and hearty.

Allan went for the ribs, as he usually does.

A funny exchange went:

Me: Are you sure you want mashed potatoes AND rice? (We are sort of trying to eat healhier)

Allan (walks over to the sides selection): Oo nga noh...sige Cheesy potatoes na lang.

Me: (one eyebrow raised)

Allan: O yung steamed veggies na lang.

We got both Solo Plate B's. His was ribs with corn and carrots and steamed veggies. Mine was chicken with slaw and fresh fruit salad.

Pretend that I posted a really crisp picture, coz I took none else.

I like Kenny's. It's clean and reliable. It's pretty affordable. It's also very fast, convenient and undeniably good. We left satisfied.

Vanilla Ice Cream, Two Ways

Vanilla ice cream is the most bought and therefore the most favored ice cream flavor all over the world. Me , I like the simple decadence of vanilla. The clean, creamy flavor of it and it's flexibility. It can be eaten plain, or with different kinds of syrup. I love it in ice cream, or like in the photo, as vanilla ice cream sandwich.

I used the grilled bread from Cibo and it really worked. The bread was chewy and a little salty. It perfectly foils and enhances the flavor of the vanilla. It looks good, too.

It's real pretty...I would add some strawberry preserves if I had any.

Then there's the float. I love float and really, soft serve ice cream does not cut it. I prefer orange coke float, Allan prefers the more traditional root beer.

Don't bother putting ice into the softdrink. The vanilla ice cream will definitely float, because well, it's ice after all. Make sure not to scoop too much ice cream because it can bubble over. Yummy treat for the entire family. I also love making milkshakes. Just blend together the soda and the ice cream and you have soda milkshake. If you have fresh fruit, then that will work, too.

Not saying that this is healthy, but once in a while, we all need some indulgent stuff.

Cibo @ Trinoma

Frankly, I was feeling a little apprehensive trying out Cibo. We don't eat out cheap, Allan and I, but we were deathly scared of eating food that is served for chi-chi looks rather than substance. I was scared to pay Php250++ for a plate of ten strands of pasta, or Php400++ for pizza that tastes only a notch higher from Greenwich. We would rather pay a little bit more as long as we are going to stuff ourselves silly.

Before I move forward, let me tell you that Cibo did not disappoint in the size department. They mean it when they say La Famiglia. We went in and the interiors were really sleek and modern, the waiters pretty damned good looking. Right away the asked for the size of our party and gave us a nice corner couch.

We set the spending limit to Php1000. And we agreed to skip the mains first and go to what we feel is essential Italian fare---pizza and pasta. We started with tomato soup. Point towards Cibo: the waiters were pretty knowledgeable about the menu. They offered to split the single order of soup into two (yes, please) and right away served water (cold, with ice, glasses so clear and clean). Soon after, the soup was served. It wasn't even 10 minutes I think.

This was good, but not great. I like my soup chunky, but this was a little bit too much so. And the bowl was too hot. I don't like that. The bowl should be warm, but seriously, I couldn't touch this one. I still say that Napoli is still by favorite place for tomato soup. For Php175, it's ok. Just ok.

Next up was the pasta. The whole meal was served completely in about 15 minutes. Well, that is good...but I'd prefer for them to serve the next orders when they see we're already about to finish the last one. But then again, they serve when it's cooked and hot, so that's fine.

We got La Foresta (you can correct me here). Pasta with olive oil, slab bacon and black olives and tomato. Another photo at the very top of this entry. Gaita Fores really taught her staff well. The pasta was al dente. Just perfect. Nothing more than al dente. We loved this pasta and finished the entire La Famiglia order pretty quickly. It was a little bit salty, but then again I like salty, so I didn't mind. Could have used more tomatoes. We didn't eat the complimentary heart shaped bread because we didn't load up too much. We took the three pieces home. I've never been to Cibo before so I'm not sure if they really do the heart-shaped bread thing or maybe it's just for valentines.

Another note on service, although different servers attended to our table, they were not annoying and simply refilled the water glasses pretty efficiently. We never even had to ask for a refill. They just magically appeared with a pitcher.

Finally, we got salami pizza.

It's served with arugula leaves on top. A nice touch. I do like some vegetables in my pizza. The arugula was a great way to offset the fattiness of the pizza. I have to say that the crust of this pizza is great. It's chewy and crispy all at the same time. It's also thin, but not paper thin. It was good. I still think that the pasta was the star, but this is a pretty good runner up.

Another note on service: I was looking for chili flakes/oil for my pizza and sort of looked over the condiments area to see if I can get any there. The waiter saw me looking and automatically brought over chili oil and chili flakes to our table.

Over all? Around 7/10 for the food and value for money. It was good, but it is still a little expensive. But then again, this is a nicer restaurant. We might go back, say, on a good payday and try out more of their food. Service and ambiance is definitely a 9.5. You do not see such efficient staff everyday.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Beautiful Tomatoes

These wonderful specimens are, I'm proud to say are only Php50/lb. Grape tomatoes can be pretty expensive if you buy them at groceries and those don't really taste that good and sometimes even bitter because they've been refrigerated. Tomatoes don't like the cold and turn mealy when they're stored in a cold area. As much as possible, I don't buy tomatoes from the grocery, and if I have no choice, I make sure to get those that are in the carts or non refrigerated veggie stations. They generally taste better.

I love tomatoes, and I have said that many times in this blog. These tomatoes were good as is and all I had to do with them was to wash, cut the larger ones and throw them in with a little salt and some salted eggs. They were sweet and juicy. Nothing can beat that sensation you get when you bite into a really fresh tomato and the flesh breaks to release the juice. Yum.

This will also be great in other salads. I would prefer to keep the dressing light though, to maintain the goodness of the tomato.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I'm a Free Bitch, Baby

I know I have been quoting Lady Gaga several times now, and honestly, I don't know why. Maybe I'm listening to her music too much, or maybe her songs are playing on the radio too often. Whatever the reason is, several lines in her songs relate to me and the title of this entry is one of them.

Yeah, baby. I'm a free bitch.

I don't know if you look at me and see a sexually hyperactive, liberated person because some of your comments on my Facebook wall seem to suggest that you think that. I hope not. Because I'm not. Wanting to step away from life provincial does not mean that I want nothing else than to fuck my brains out(sorry Mom).

The reason why I am here is simple. If I hadn't left, I would be a broke, unemployed, overweight out-of-school youth who will always envy her friends who have the good fortune of getting their diplomas. I wouldn't have the money to go out with you and I would not have the enough confidence to even look you in the eye. In short, even if I stayed, I will just end up isolating myself from you because I'm different. I am now part of the statistic, and not in a good way. I will be part of the demographic that Manny Villar wants to uplift, rather than a functioning member of society. Leaving Zamboanga was the option I took not because of the promise of bright lights and fancy nightclubs and bars. I left Zamboanga because that was my only chance of redemption. And truthfully, I'm better off. I am able to take care of myself and my family more. I'm proud of that.

But those are decisions I made. I know they're not for everyone and frankly, if you don't NEED to make decisions like mine, don't. I am not the type of person who compares battle scars with other people because while my own scars made me who I am right now, I certainly have no right to tell you you're a lesser person because you took the easier path. Life deals out different cards. This was how my cards were dealt and this was how I played it. If you're proud of the way you played yours, then I'm proud to be your friend.

Bottom line, I don't need you to be like me just so you can be my friend. I don't need your admiration, just your friendship and ultimately your acceptance and respect. Keep the patronizing for yourself. I'm not god. I don't need adoration before you say your intentions.

I like the way things are now. I really am a free bitch. I'm so lucky that I have that freedom. I look at things differently now because I have graduated from that phase of idealistic, I-will-change-the-world frame of mind (sad as that event may be). I have accepted that maybe I can't change the world, after all, but I still can change myself. I still can have FUN. I can do the things I want, stand up for whatever I want and go home to blog about it. But that's ME. That's how I wish to live my life.

Finally, Henry and I have talked about this. Since we have just started to live lives a little bit more complicated and now care more about where to get the rent, the next meal or how to fit that F&H or Zara sale into the budget, we learned to let things be. Let it be, Jollibee. I'm hoping that you'll (you know who you are) do the same thing. And maybe, if the friendship overgrowth is not too great, then we might again sit down and talk over tea and cake, be it here in Manila or in the old city.