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Easy like Sunday morning

It’s 8:15 on a Sunday morning, and I’ve already made:

  • Chocolate chip pumpkin pancakes
  • Candied Saba bananas (recipe below)
  • Fresh butter
  • Fresh buttermilk

Still on the docket for today:

  • Plum & fig almond tart
  • Plum & fig jam
  • Vanilla gelato (if I’m still feeling industrious by the time I finish with everything else!)

How will you be spending your Sunday? 🙂

Matamis Na Saging (candied Saba bananas) [adapted from a family recipe, serves 4-5]

Saba bananas are native to the Philippines, and they’re very much like plantains (but better :)). They’re cooked, never eaten raw, and used in a variety of Filipino desserts, including turon de saging (Saba banana in an eggroll wrapper and fried to perfection), banana-cue (Saba banana rolled in sugar, then skewered and grilled until it’s all caramelized), and matamis na saging, which is what I’m sharing below.

This is best eaten cold, topped with milk (what kind of milk? Yes, that’s right, whole milk :)) and shaved ice. Yum. Simple, yet delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 8 Saba bananas, chopped into quarters (find them at your local Asian store; make sure they’re still somewhat firm, because overripe bananas will turn to mush when you make this)
  • 3/4 brown sugar
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water

In a saucepan, melt the sugar, then add the water. Stir until incorporated, then add the bananas and bring to a boil. Make sure the bananas are covered in the liquid — if not, add a little more water. Add only a little bit at a time, though, otherwise the syrup will be too watery.

Simmer until the syrup is thick and reduced somewhat, and the bananas are a little caramelized. The time will vary, but start checking around the 20 minute mark, and then keep checking after that. Your bananas should be fork-tender, but not mushy. Get a bit of a taste and you’ll know it’s done when the bananas no longer have that “raw” taste, but still have a bit of a bite to them.

When cool, top with shaved ice (or you can just put the bananas over ice cubes) and milk (however much you like). Yum!

Matamis na saging

Matamis na saging (literally: “sweet bananas”)

Life is a bowl of cherries

The title of this post has multiple meanings. For one thing, this post features a recipe that has cherries as the main ingredient, and for another, this was a banner week for me, so the title kind of reflects where I’m at in life. Let’s just say, it’s highly apropos :).

I’ll get the latter out of the way first, because it isn’t food-related and there is plenty of “squeeing” to get out of my system.

In my “other life” (i.e. not my work life, but my other “hobby life”), I am a writer. I think you may get a sense of that just from reading this blog, but what you may not know is the extent to which I write. I do more than write this blog; I’m also an aspiring novelist, and I’ve been working on this for a little over a decade now. Actually, I’ve been writing ever since I was old enough to hold a pen, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I attempted the very daunting task of writing my first novel. And that’s exactly what I’m celebrating–because this past weekend, after ten long years, I finally put the finishing touches on the manuscript of my first (completed) novel, and I also sent out my very first (four) agent query letter(s) to begin my journey to (hopefully) getting it published.

So if all goes well, perhaps you’ll see me on a shelf or Kindle near you in the near future? 🙂

Ok, now back to the food… (And by the way, the protagonist of my next novel is a food blogger–hmm, wonder why that sounds familiar :))

Last week, I had some leftover cherries that I’d gotten from my parents–and then promptly forgotten about, until I had to get something from the fruit drawer of my fridge and saw them sitting there, all red and plump and lovely. I decided I needed to do something special with them, because they were quickly ripening and there was no way I was going to finish all of them before they went bad and were completely useless.

Enter the cherry clafoutis.

I’d seen a recipe for this at some point and decided I would need to make this someday, because it just looked so, so good. Well, I finally had cherries on hand, and if that isn’t a sign from up above, I don’t know what is!

Folks, this one is as easy as can be. And the results are absolutely DELICIOUS. And the people in my office can testify to this, because I brought it in for them to enjoy.

So… enjoy!

Cherry Clafoutis (recipe from Joy of Baking, serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb pitted cherries (if you’re like me and have no idea how much cherries weigh, just eyeball it at 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour (or flour of your choice)
  • 3/4 cup milk (say it with me: whole milk only! Or milk substitute of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven at 425 degrees.

Now, get ready to put the cherries. I’m not going to lie, people. If you don’t have a cherry pitter, this is going to be the hardest part of making this. And also the messiest. You can use a paring knife or you can use your fingers; I used my fingers. I’m still trying to get the stains out of my fingernails.

Pitted cherries

You have to earn your cherries, yo

Cherry pits

Did I not tell you it was messy?

Pitted cherries

But look at how lovely they look, all pitted!

Ok, now that they’re all pitted, you’re on your way to the easy stuff :). Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet and add the cherries and 2 tbsp sugar. Toss until the sauce thickens and the cherries are covered in the lovely sugar-butter.

Cherries

Cherries

Now let cool, and move onto your clafoutis batter. In a blender, throw in the flour, the remaining tbsp of butter (melt in the microwave first), vanilla, eggs, and remaining sugar. Blend until smooth. And there you go, that’s your batter!

Batter

Clafoutis batter–blend away!

If your skillet is oven proof, all you have to do is pour the batter over the cherries and pop in the oven. If your skillet is not oven-proof, transfer the cherries and sauce into a pie or tart dish, then pour the batter over it.

Clafoutis

All ready to go in the oven!

Whichever you choose, put your new creation into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is a nice golden brown and puffed up slightly. Make sure to avoid any temptation to open the oven door before it’s finished baking, or you risk the clafoutis collapsing. Trust me on this. I know of which I speak (in other words, my clafoutis collapsed a little. Sob.).

To make it extra special and pretty, sprinkle powdered sugar all over the top of the COOLED clafoutis (wait till it’s cool, or else the powdered sugar will just melt and then no one will know it was ever there in the first place).

Cherry clafoutis

Eat me!

Now there’s only one thing left to do. Eat it. 🙂

South of the border flair

Growing up in California, I was lucky to have plenty of options for excellent Mexican food. As I started getting into cooking, I found that Mexican cuisine is one of the less intimidating ones to learn–it’s full of fresh, simple ingredients and wonderful flavors. The ones I’m sharing below have a decidedly California twist to them (in other words, I’m not sure how authentic these foods are, but I can tell you they’re quite common here in Cal-Mex restaurants, so I’m guessing there’s a large California influence on them :)).

So without further ado (or is it adieu? I’ve never been able to figure that one out…), here are two of my favorite Cal-Mex inspired dishes: fish tacos and slow-cooker carnitas.

Fish Tacos with heirloom tomato salsa (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz boneless tilapia fillet (you can also use mahi mahi or rock cod, or any other flaky white fish, but tilapia is my favorite, since I grew up eating it in the Philippines)
  • 1 large heirloom tomato, chopped (Trader Joe’s has mini heirloom tomatoes that are the size of cherry tomatoes–they’re adorable and versatile enough to be used in salads, too–these are the ones I tend to buy, rather than the larger ones)
  • 2 tbsp red onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped (use more or less, according to your preference; I love me some cilantro, so I go for LOTS of it)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (in a pinch, you can also substitute a few dashes of tabasco for the heat; both or either are entirely optional if you prefer a milder salsa)
  • juice of half a lime (I prefer the flavor of lemon, so I use lemon instead)
  • 1/2 medium avocado
  • 1-2 small (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Spray a grill pan with a little oil (I use olive oil), then heat over medium-high heat. Season your fish with salt and pepper, then when the pan is ready, grill the fish, about 2-3 minutes per side. You’ll have to watch carefully to see whether more or less time is needed; it’ll depend on the thickness of your fillet. You want to cook the fish thoroughly, but you won’t want to overcook it, since it gets tough and rubbery. No bueno.

While the fish is cooking, toss together the chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste. Now wrap your tortilla(s) in a wet paper towel and microwave for 30-40 seconds to get it nice and warm.

By now your fish should be ready. Spread the avocado on your tortilla(s), and lay the fish onto the tortilla(s), either keeping it whole, or breaking it up into chunks. It’s all up to you and your preference :). Top with the salsa, and eat up!

Fish tacos

An explosion of color and flavors in your mouth, guaranteed 🙂

Slow-cooker carnitas (serves 6-8) 

Ingredients:

  • 3.5-4 lb pork butt/shoulder roast, visible fat trimmed (there’s no getting around the fact that this is a fatty cut of meat–and you’ll need that fat to make a really tender carnitas, but you can trim as much as you can and still have enough fat to leave it moist and tender)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil

Make a rub of the salt and spices, then rub the mix all over the pork, making sure to cover all sides. Place it in the slow cooker, then pour the chicken broth in, careful not to disturb the rub as much as possible. Cook on low for 8-9 hours.

Once it’s cooked, heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, then take the carnitas out and brown all sides of the pork. Cooking it in the slow cooker will ensure a fork-tender texture, but part of what makes carnitas so yummy is the crispy exterior (which is traditionally achieved by deep frying it; obviously that’s not too healthy :)), so this is the way to “cheat” and get that crispiness, without making it a huge saturated fat bomb.

Once it’s seared, you can either shred the pork now, or leave it intact and shred it just before you’re going to eat it (or leave it in chucks, as I prefer). These are fantastic in a taco, similar to the fish tacos above (except substituting the fish for the carnitas, obviously :)), or with Mexican rice, or, well, any way you prefer, really! Get creative :).

Bueno?

Carnitas

It looks plain now, but your taste buds won’t think it’s so plain once they get hit with this yummy concoction!