Thursday, March 19, 2009

Comfort me with.... Beef Pinapaitan

Whenever I come across the words "comfort food" I think of two things : First, I think of home-cooked meals usually shared with family and second, I think of food that I grew up eating outside the home (i.e. street food). Either way, comfort food is food that I am most familiar with. It is the type of food that evokes memories of watching my dad, or my mom, or my lola, prepare piping hot food from scratch. It is the type of food that makes me recall how simple life was back then when we waited for manong taho vendor to arrive and my Lolo would buy me a tall glass of velvety soft taho, with lots of super sweet arnibal and sago.

My dad's Beef Pinapaitan tops my list of favorite comfort food. I've had this dish ever since I can remember. Pinapaitan (from the root word "pait" which means bitter) is an Ilocano dish made with either beef or goat meat (sometimes innards are included), and is flavored with chili and bile. We Ilocanos are known to be a thrifty lot and it is no surprise that this trait is inherent in our cooking. Waste not. Want not.
Some people say that pinapaitan is an acquired taste. Some get turned off by its color. Some get turned off by its bitter taste. Anthony Bourdain, during his visit to the Philippines, tasted pinapaitan and he liked it. Maybe in his past life, he was an Ilocano. But then again AB eats almost anything hahaha.

I, however, love pinapaitan. When piping hot, the soup is amazingly delicious. The bitterness, which comes from the addition of the bile, warms and comforts you, as do the chilis added to the dish. My dad used to say " ang pait, ang tamis" giving another meaning to the term "bittersweet."

A couple of months ago, I asked my dad to teach me how to make beef pinapaitan. He said the important thing is to use the freshest ingredients, particularly the bile and the beef. "Make sure to use bile that is "primera klase", he says. The second thing he told me was to make sure that I don't overcook the beef or else I'll end up with tough, leathery meat.

I watched as he sliced the beef in a certain way (against the grain, he said). I looked intently as he strained the bile and added it to the pot, followed by some water to lessen the bitterness. For some strange reason, I can always tell whether or not a bowl of beef pinapaitan was cooked and prepared by my dad. Maybe it's because i've had pinapaitan since I was a kid. Maybe it's because when my dad prepares this dish, the beef is meltingly tender. Or maybe everytime he prepares this special dish, he prepares it with a lot of love. :) This is the best beef pinapaitan ever.

My Dad's Beef Pinapaitan

(please note that my dad doesn't measure his ingredients so I had to eyeball the measurement)

1 kilo beef lomo (tenderloin), sliced thinly into 1 1/2" strips
1/2 kilo liver, sliced thinly into 1 1/2"
cow bile, strained ( my dad used 2 sacs)
1 onion, sliced
1 ginger, sliced thinly
garlic, chopped
sili mahaba (long green chillies)
spring onions, sliced
salt and pepper to taste.

Wash beef and liver thoroughly, then pat dry. Thinly slice beef and liver and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a pot, saute garlic, onions and ginger until fragrant. Add bile and dilute with water. (You can always adjust bile and water ratio to suit your taste.)
Let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the chillies. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. When the soup comes to a slow boil, add the thinly sliced beef and liver. Turn off heat. The residual heat from the soup will cook the beef. Sprinkle chopped spring onions.
Serve hot with rice.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Of Food & Family (Part I)

They say that "the family that prays together, stays together." I believe this. I also believe that "the family that eats together, stays together."
Apart from our love for one another and our faith in the Almighty, I believe that our love for food, good food, unites us.
Every now and then, we (my family, uncles and aunts, cousins, a few cherished friends whom we consider as family) gather around the table, savor and enjoy good food, and share stories about anything and everything under the sun.

So here's a peak into my family and the food that we enjoy :)

*Pictures were taken last Feb 28, 2009. It was also our Lolo Clarence's birthday. We miss him dearly.

(Lola and her babies)

(Lola & her children-in-law)

(Lola with some of her grandchildren. We missed you Gelli, Mariz, Joy, Nina, Clare, JB, Valen)

(my sister, Tanya, with our cuz Jcboy, his wife, Shalika & baby Johnber)

(lola & my dad, wearing lolo's stetson)


(tita ica's salad greens with apples, red grapes, blue cheese & balsamic dressing)

(tita marivic's spicy seafood penne pasta with marinara sauce)

(tita marivic's tabouleh)

(fish fillet with tartar sauce & butterflied prawns with lemon butter sauce)

(my dad's roasted herb and pepper crusted sirloin au jus)

(my dad's pork asado)

(fruit bowl, my tita ica's fusion turon & my banana streusel muffins)

good food

great company


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Barefoot Blogging : [Faux] Chicken Piccata

It's the second Thursday of the month again meaning it is time to post my completed task for the Barefoot Bloggers. I wasn't able to join the Barefoot Bloggers last month so I was hell-bent not to miss this month's challenges.
Up for testing is Chicken Piccata. The first thing that crossed my mind was " oh wow a chicken recipe at last!!! Yummy juicy chicken!!!" Then it hit me that for the entire season of Lent, as my sacrifice, I chose to abstain from eating pork, beef, lamb and *sigh* chicken.
I still wanted to proceed with the original recipe for the piccata but with everyone at home abstaining from meat and poultry and it would be a shame to see all those wonderful ingredients (as well as the money spent to buy those ingredients) go to waste, I decided to make a faux chicken piccata instead.
I checked our freezer and found my dad's stash of creamy dory fillets which are hard to come by. I nicked two pieces and let them thaw a bit.
I then prepared and measured all the other ingredients needed and proceeded to coat the fish in seasoned flour, egg, breadcrumbs. I didn't season the fillets with salt and pepper prior to coating them because the flour was already seasoned and i used italian breadcrumbs which were quite salty already. I figured I can always add more salt and pepper later.
I fried the fillets until they were brown on both sides before transferring them to the turbo broiler were they finished cooking.
For the sauce, instead of white wine , I used half of a shrimp cube dissolved in hot water. When the butter-lemon juice- stock mixture reduced, I spooned it over the fish and topped the fish with lemon zest and parsley.
Overall, the piccata was tasty. The fillets were soft, tender and tasty thanks to the coating of flour, egg and breadcrumbs and the lemon added a clean, citrusy burst that complimented the fish. The best thing is that it was a snap to make! A flavorful dish in minutes.
Here's the original recipe for Ina's chicken piccata.

recipe courtesy of Ina Garten and Food Network


  • 2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts [ i used creamy dory fillets. you can use any white fish fillets that you have]
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • Good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine [i used stock]
  • Sliced lemon, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lunch at Amici

One lazy Sunday, my sister Gelli asked my mom if we could eat out before we (my mom & I) head back to La Union. My mom right away obliged and we headed off to Amici, her restaurant of choice.

(mama & gelli)

According to my sister, Amici, which means "friends" in Italian, serves pizza, pasta,gelato and more. The restaurant had a "cafeteria" feel to it. A high end pizza place it is not. There was an air of casualness upon entering the restaurant. People were eating, laughing and talking animatedly. While others lined up to place their orders, some people watched the cooks prepare pizzas. I, on the otherhand, joined the long queue at the gelato scooping station to check out the yummy gelato flavors.

(different flavors of creamy gelato)

We were ushered to our table and were given menus right away. Since it was my first time at Amici, my sister ordered for me. She ordered the Spinach Fusilli, mozzarella sticks and a pizza margherita. My mom ordered the italian sausage. Gelato for dessert.

The mozzarella sticks were okay. A little bland but okay. The marinara sauce needed a dash of salt and pepper. Or maybe they should have used italian breadcrumbs to coat the mozzarella sticks.

(mozarella sticks)

The spinach fusilli was al dente with a generous serving of tomato cream sauce. I wanted to add more cheese to it but you have to pay for extra parmesan cheese. This is the only italian restaurant I know that asks patrons to pay for an extra serving of parmesan. BUMMER!!!

(spinach fusilli montera)

The pizza margherita was crisp and for a lack of a better word, unadulterated. Tomatoes. Mozarella. Basil. Simple. Good.

(pizza margherita minus 3 slices)

I, however, didn't care for the homemade italian sausage. I didn't like the way it was plated. It was way too oily and didn't taste like italian sausage at all. It was a mediocre version of the ilocos longganisa.

(their version of italian sausage)

My favorite part of the meal was dessert. We ordered one scoop each of the hazelnut gelato, mint chocolate chip gelato and espresso gelato. Our favorite was the hazelnut gelato. It's like nutella ice cream! The gelato was very creamy and rich and satisfying. My mom bought some ensaimadas as well. Delicious for breakfast.

(espresso gelato)

(mint chocolate chip gelato & hazelnut gelato)

Having said all those, I think that if you don't mind the cafeteria-ish ambience and the long queues, then by all means give Amici a try. The food is inexpensive but good. The ensaimada is soft and tasty and the gelato is YUM YUM YUMMY!


Bellagio Square, Tomas Morato cor. Sct. Fuentebella
Quezon City, Metro Manila

I heard that they also have a branch in Makati. Don't ask me where because I don't have a clue hehehe

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pasta with tomatoes, feta & tuyo flakes

This Lenten season, for my sacrifice, I am swearing off beef, pork, chicken and lamb. For a certified "carnivore" like me, not having something like pork tocino or bacon or beef pinapaitan for breakfast, fried chicken for lunch and pork adobo for dinner is heartbreaking (drama!!!). Lucky for me I love dried, salted seafood like daing and tuyo.

(Photo courtesy of Zer Cabatuan )

Tuyo (meaning dry) is fish that underwent salting and drying. These processes actually preserves the fish so that one can store it for some time.
I think that tuyo is best served with rice, eggs and pork and beans but this morning I had just had two pieces of that delicious salted fish with a heaping serving of rice. Although I don't care much for the smell of tuyo frying, it really doesn't bother me unlike other people who find the smell unbearable.
We still had a few pieces of tuyo left so I decided to add it to a pasta dish. The tuyo added a salty component to the dish and blended beautifully into the tomato based sauce. The pasta dish was satisfying and filling even if it didn't have meat in it. The addition of crumbly feta and some pasta water made the dish creamy.

Tuyo Pasta

250 grams spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 small onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1 tsp chili flakes
5 pcs button mushrooms, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
5 pieces tuyo, flaked, bones removed
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley, chopped
feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside.
In a pan, heat olive oil and add chili flakes. Add onions and saute until soft. Add garlic, tomatoes, tuyo flakes, mushrooms and capers. Season with salt and pepper Saute until mushrooms are cooked. Toss in pasta, lemon zest and lemon juice and some pasta water. Add parsley and more pepper and salt,if needed). Crumble some feta cheese on top. Serve hot.