Easy eggplant lunch

Rome backlog done. Now, back to our regular programming!
Life at home has been good. To share a little bit of my domestic bliss, I’m reposting this Giada di Laurentiis recipe for grilled eggplant and goat cheese salad. It’s become my go-to lunch as of late, and it’s a triple t(h)reat: healthy, yummy and easy to make.
You’ll need: 
Olive oil
Eggplant (1 per person), thinly sliced into rounds
Pine nuts, toasted
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Basil, chopped
Mint, chopped
Balsamic vinegar (I used a squeeze of lemon instead)
Salt and pepper
Place a grill pan (ours is from Ikea) over medium-high heat, or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Drizzle olive oil over the slices of eggplant and toss to coat. Grill eggplants until tender and grill marks appear, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. 
Place the slices on a serving platter (or, if you’re eating for one like me, on your plate). Sprinkle with pine nuts, goat cheese, basil and mint. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Finish off with a swish of balsamic vinegar or (not and!) a squeeze of lemon. 
Buon appetito!
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The pull of pork

Red meat is rarely on the list of foods I crave for. Between beef and pork, I’m far likelier to crave for beef (usually in the form of a burger) than pork. I can go for months without eating pork and rely on a trip home to Manila for Christmas to fill up my meagre pork “quota” for the year. I’m probably one of the few Pinoys alive on this earth who simply does not, cannot eat pork liempo
In fact, the list of pork dishes I actually eat is very short.
  1. Sausages (chorizo, wurst, and longganisa fall into this general category)
  2. Cebu lechon (only from Cebu!)
  3. Sisig
  4. Chicharon
  5. Majestic ham (a Christmas family tradition)
  6. Pulled pork sandwiches
So it was to my great surprise that I found myself craving pork last week. Specifically, a pulled pork sandwich. The best I’ve had was at Daisy Mae’s in New York two years ago. Since then, I’ve put pulled pork out of my mind… until now. The good thing is that it’s easy to make, and thus a lot easier for me to get my hands on over here. Imagine if I’d been craving for lechon, sisig or Majestic ham!
I found an easy recipe for pulled pork on the Food Network that required the use of a Dutch oven. We’ve rarely used our Dutch oven since moving to the Netherlands (a true irony, har har) so it was nice to finally bring it out of the cabinet. With an abundance of Cs (cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, chili and homemade chicken broth, among others) simmering away, the kitchen smelled mouthwatering. 

After Marlon and I attacked the cooked, tender meat with forks and left it to soak up the sauce, I made a broccoli slaw to go with it. I don’t usually like slaw, but I like this recipe for broccoli slaw because it uses zero mayonnaise. Instead, it uses vinegar (I substituted apple cider with red wine) and wholegrain mustard to give the slaw a delectable zing.

Then all we had to do was plop a generous serving of pulled pork onto toasted hamburger buns and add a dollop of broccoli slaw. Et voila, our homemade pulled pork sandwiches!

The crunch and acidic tang of the slaw cuts right into the soft and sweet pork, making a yummy match. The pork is heavy though, so I don’t see myself doing this at home too often. But to fulfill a craving that comes once in a blue moon, it’s more than enough. This will keep me in good stead until pork and I have our Christmas reunion.

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Dinner for -ers

Because we’re sick of living in a white box and because professional painters in Amsterdam charge €45 per bloody hour, nagpaka-er kami ni Marlon this weekend. We spent Friday to Sunday painting the bedroom a gorgeous rich cobalt blue from Farrow & Ball, more on which later.

Painting is hard work! (Apparently, it burns 200 calories an hour.) So my weekend menu was heavy on the carbs: sticky lemon chicken and lots of Thai jasmine rice (no more Surinamese rice! Yay!) for lunch yesterday, and pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes, capers, olives and basil for dinner tonight. After making the latter, I found it so ridiculously easy and so insanely yummy that I just had to blog about it.

The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking for Two cookbook, a super thoughtful thank-you gift from Erika whom we hosted at Palazzo Plazo last year.

You’ll need:

2 tbsp olive oil
500g/ 2.5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (got mine for €3/500g! Paging Gutsy!)
500g/ 2.5 cups penne or fusilli
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp pitted kalamata olives
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1.5 tsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 tsp sugar
Salt n’ pepa (shoop, shoop-e-roop)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (I probably used a full teaspoon, I like the warmth)
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (naduling pala ako and this was from another recipe lol!)
2 tbsp pine nuts (my splurge of the week at €3.95!)
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan for serving (didn’t have any, it was fine without this)
Optional: splash of red wine

Makes two servings each for two hungry -ers!

Preheat the oven to 175℃. Gently toss the tomatoes, capers, olive oil, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes together.

Spread the tomatoes in a single layer (I was OC and made all the halves face up, haha) in a baking dish and pop it in the oven, without stirring, for 30 minutes. The tomato skins should be slightly shriveled, but the tomatoes should retain their shape. Remove from the oven after roasting and let cool slightly.

Cook the pasta and drain, reserving half a cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Scrape the tomato mixture on top of the pasta and add the olives. The recipe also calls for 1 tbsp minced fresh oregano at this point, but I didn’t have any.

There were nice crunchy garlic bits and assorted caramelized goodness stuck to the baking pan, so I splashed it with red wine and heated it over a low flame to deglaze. After pouring the deglazed yumminess into the pasta, I also took some pasta and rubbed it around on the pan (a.k.a. simot) before putting it back into the pot.

Toss the pasta and tomato mixture together, adjusting the consistency of the sauce with your pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with chopped basil, the grated cheese if you have it, and pine nuts. We also had the rest of the Pinot Noir that I used for deglazing.

Nagpaka-er man kami, at least sosyal pa rin sa huli. Buon appetito

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Squashed

With the huge hunk of butternut squash left over from the previous weekend’s portobello burger win, I made this easy fettucine with pumpkin, shiitake and mascarpone cheese.

The sauce was incredibly rich and creamy, although in hindsight I probably would have used a little more stock and a little less mascarpone. I almost shot an embolism when I weighed myself the next morning… that cheese is sin in a tub!

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Saturday success

Every now and then, I like a good veggie recipe. After eating a little too much over the weekend, or one too many rich cheeses or fried foods, Marlon and I try to inject a little veggie goodness into our weekly menu. It can get a bit difficult to find something to get really enthusiastic about, as I’m very picky with vegetables. But when I came across this grilled portobello and brie burger recipe, I thought: why not?

It’s pretty simple: just marinate portobello mushrooms, sliced red bell peppers and sliced squash in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper for 15 minutes. We found these kick-ass butternut squash in the supermarket. They’re huge! You can do bicep curls with these things. After making four burgers, we still have more than three-quarters of the thing left. I plan to make squash and mascarpone pasta with the leftovers.

After marinating, grill all the veggies and layer them on a nice toasted hamburger bun with thin slices of brie. Marlon added some wild rocket leaves to replace the zucchini, which was missing from the supermarket.

Et voila!

Success! The portobello is a great substitute for a meat patty, as it has its own yummy juices and is the perfect size for a hamburger bun. The squash is sweet, the rocket tangy, the bell pepper gives just a little bit of crunch, and the brie is, well… brie. You can’t go wrong with brie! 
The icing on the cake: two burgers with a glass of Pepsi is less than 650 calories. Yahoo! I’ll definitely be making this again!
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