In my last post, I wrote about my reading challenge for 2020, which is coming along pretty well. I’ve fallen a little behind (6/52 so far) so I’ll need to pick up the pace, but overall I’m loving it. Finished Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely (this year’s Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster—a very well-deserved honor based on this book) and am slowly making my way through Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron. The writing moves quickly but the worldbuilding is amazing, so I try to slow down and take it all in as I’m reading.
But reading isn’t my only challenge for this year. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not much of a cook; I love baking and enjoy making festive meals for friends and family, but the daily drudgery of cooking for sustenance is just not for me. However, eating out and getting frozen meals and other processed food gets expensive, unhealthy, and just tiresome really. So one of my goals is to cook a complete meal (no, eggs and rice don’t count, Mia!) once a week, and a savory Filipino dish at least once a month.
I’ve made a bunch of Filipino desserts, but the savory dishes were my father’s domain. He reigned supreme in the kitchen and I had no desire to even attempt to unseat him. Unfortunately, he’s gone now, taking with him his delicious recipes (as well as his quiet humor and knowledge on so many different subjects). Without him, there’s no one to prepare my favorite meals and one of the few connections I have to my heritage (my mom is NOT a cook). So I figured it was time I learned.
I eased into the challenge last month by making one of the easiest dishes possible—longanisa with a fried egg and white rice. It’s a popular dish for breakfast and one of my favorite dishes, period.
This month, I continued with the easy yet well-loved dish of Bistek Tagalog—thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce, onions, and citrus juice. Calamansi, a small citrus fruit that tastes like a cross between a lemon and a lime, is traditional but can easily be substituted for lemon juice, which is what I did. This was my absolute favorite dish as a child. Anytime I saw my dad tenderizing the meat with a cleaver, slicing up a huge pile of onions, and frying sliced potatoes to accompany the meat and rice (my mom hates vegetables, hence the double carbs), I would get so excited.
The hiss of the meat hitting the hot wok brought back a rush of memories and eating the finished meal was like a taste of childhood, but with a twist. The recipe I used was from the book I Am A Filipino: And This Is How We Cook by Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad, which takes traditional Filipino recipes and soups them up a bit. For example, this recipe has you reduce the marinade for the sauce and then finishes it off with a generous pat of butter. An absolute baller move, as this adds a lovely richness to the dish that matches well with the sharp acidic bite of the citrus, rounding things out.
As we near the end of the February and head into March, I wonder what recipe to tackle next. Considering the cold snap that’s hit Chicago, maybe a soup or stew-y dish? Only time and the contents of my fridge will tell.
What about you, Dear Readers? Anyone here love to cook? Hate it? Have a treasure trove of family recipes that helps connect you to your roots? Let me know in the comments!