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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Moon, Your Eye and the Pizza Pie

Pizza has always been a comfort food for many Italians.  I'm told that it's the go-to comfort food for many Italians when coming home after being abroad after a period of time.  This would be the equivalent of Sinigang na Baboy (Pork in Sour Broth) for the Filipinos.  Somehow, it just tastes different when you have it at home. 
For my daughter, pizza has become a food of solace.  But I suppose this is true with many kids these days.  Besides, it's quite easy to just pick up the phone and call your favorite brand for delivery.  But in case you want to have something on the cheap, here is my recipe for a Tre Formaggi  (3-cheese) Pizza.  Its strong cheesy flavor is a certified hit with the kids and even with your lonesome.  Make it look and taste gourmet by serving it with fresh basil leaves and alfalfa sprouts.  Definitely worth mooning over.

The Recipe

1 store-bought 10-inch pizza dough, preferably thin crust
1/2 cup cream cheese spread (i.e. Magnolia, or Laughing Cow)
1 cup grated Mozzarella, or any brand quickmelt cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese, preferably fresh
2-3 Tbsp. garlic powder
olive oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 deg. Celsius.  Take out pizza dough from cooler and set on pizza stone, if you have one, or on a non-stick baking pan that has been sprayed a little with olive oil.
Generously spread cream cheese first, followed by the mozzarella or quickmelt then parmesan.  Sprinkle garlic powder on top and drizzle olive oil if using.  Place pizza disk in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese browns and bubbles over.  Take out and slice into 8 triangles with a pizza cutter or knife that has been dipped in water to ensure neat portions.  Serve with fresh basil and alfalfa sprouts.
In case you have more time in your hands, you can make your own pizza dough by following this recipe.  (While '00' flour is ideal, all-purpose flour is a good substitute):

2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups lukewarm water, divided
3 1/2 cups '00' flour or pizza flour, plus additional for handling
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil

In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup water.  Stir with fork until well mixed.  Cover the bowl with a dry towel for 30 minutes.  After this time, check if the mixture becomes foamy.  If so, continue to the next phase.  If not, throw away the mixture and start again.
When yeast is foamy, add the salt, olive oil and remaining water.  Stir in flour, 1/2 cup at a time. 
Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough for 5-7 minutes or until dough is no longer sticky.  Form the dough into a ball and coat with olive oil.  Place dough in a bowl, cover with a towel and set it in a warm place.  Let dough rise for 1 hour or longer.
After dough rises, dust your hands with flour and re-knead the dough for about 2 minutes.  Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and using your hands, shape each into a flat disk.  Cover and let rise another 30 minutes. 
Using flour covered hands, flatten disk further by pressing outward until you reach your desired thickness and size.

Normally, this recipe makes 4 10-inch disks.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


There are no entries for lakbaymesa at the moment as we condole with fellow Filipinos in the Visayas region that were greatly affected by typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda).  Rosehill School in Antipolo is receiving donations in cash and kind, which will then be sent to Samar and Leyte.  Thank you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Swiss Eats - Vieux Chalet

It was a fine day, almost nearing lunch time while driving within our (mountain) city limits, that we allowed our appetites to lead us to an iconic Antipolo restaurant.  Vieux Chalet has been a repeat destination for us whenever we want a bit of quiet, efficient and friendly service, and your own panoramic view of Metro Manila.  It has perfectly situated itself atop a higher peak in Antipolo since 1984 and is actually just a portion of the residence of Mr. Tony and Mrs. Susan Hassig and their children. It is the only restaurant in this city that serves continental cuisine, so you're in for quite a treat.
Vieux Chalet translates to "old cottage" in French, thus, the restaurant's interiors reflect accordingly.  The Hassig family is much into arts and crafts as evidenced by various tableaux seen in a nook here or a cranny there.  The paintings that line the walls are also for sale, in case you're into collecting them, some of which are made by Chef Florence Hassig herself.
But for our part, returning to a favorite place and fortunately, our favorite table, is joy in itself.  Much more so with the consistently cheerful Rico to serve us with diligent attention.
My daughter likes coming here for only one thing - their Raclette, served with gherkins, boiled potato and olives.  Good as a starter, or as a light main meal.
On the other hand, we had our fill of the Beef Liver Pate served with crackers and bread, a great starter for more things to come.
Vieux Chalet serves hefty pasta dishes, but since we just want a tasting for the sake of variety on our table, we opted for their Shrimp Ravioli with home-made tomato sauce and ricotta cheese. 
It was light and savory, and the sauce was good to the last mopping of their delicious freshly-baked bread.
But the Filet Mignon with Creamy Onion Gravy and served with rosti and vegetables was the star of that meal.  The dish was deconstructed, thus, sharing the it becomes convenient - the bacon was served in strips on the side, the beef tenderloin sliced into medallions, well-cooked while maintaining its juiciness, and the sides balanced everything.  Our plates were wiped clean, and very well finished with cups of perfectly brewed coffee.  Our entire meal costs PhP2,860.00 (around US$68), but well worth it.
I invite you to make a day of Antipolo, if only to get away from the humid weather of Metro Manila, and partake of what this side of Rizal province has to offer.  When planning to go to Vieux Chalet, it would be helpful to call for reservations since seating capacity is limited.  Note too, that they are closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays as Chef Flo devotes this time for arts and crafts, and ensures the general cleaning of the restaurant.
After that, make a pilgrimage to the Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.  This is the same Marian image brought to the city in 1626 by Governor-General Juan Nino de Tabora from Acapulco, Mexico that still stands in the Antipolo Cathedral.  If you're into art, there is the Pinto Art Gallery which houses the personal collection of Dr. Joven Cuanang, an eminent neurologist in the country.  It also hosts independent exhibits so you get to have a taste of what's trending in the local art scene.
Vieux Chalet
Taktak Road, Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines
Tel. No. +63 2 6970396; +63 928 2888584
Hours: 9am - 10pm (closed Wednesdays and Thursdays)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Bolognese Outside Bologna

It was during one of those weekends that my husband suggested that we have a spaghetti dinner that this plan of having it with a Bolognese sauce was cooked up.  Indeed, this menu suggestion was well received since it will only require a few ingredients.  And really, a pasta dish is easier and therefor faster to prepare for dinner.
A Bolognese sauce refers to a meat based dish (usually beef and pork) dressed up with a little tomato sauce and red wine with origins from the city of Bologna in Italy.  It is usually called ragu alla Bolognese or simply ragu.  For anyone who has had a taste of the Filipino spaghetti, the Bolognese sauce is the basis for it.  Of course, we have made it our own by removing the wine and adding ham and hotdog slices, and as perfected by Makati Supermart, added red and green bell peppers and may I guess, a lot of pickles to reach that sweet-sour-salty taste we always look for in a meat sauce. 
But I digress. 
Here is my recipe for the Bolognese sauce that evening.  I can safely say that I stayed true to the Italian recipe, although the wine I used was something that I had on hand.  There isn't any particular wine that one should use actually, but do follow the rule that the wine you should use for cooking should be something you also drink.  In my case, it was a rioja (Proximo by Marques de Riscal 2010). 
For the pasta, I used spaghettini and made sure that I cooked it al dente.  This means that you should take out the pasta from the simmering water when it is almost cooked through, not when it is entirely cooked.  No need to worry about it since even when you are able to get the pasta out, it continues to cook through because of the residual heat from the pot, and by the time you mix it with the sauce, it'll just be ripe enough to soak in the flavors of the Bolognese.  Perfetto.
The Recipe
1 kilo ground lean beef
5-6 strips bacon
1 medium white onion, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, chopped finely
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 bottles passata, or pureed tomato
1/3 cup red wine
salt & pepper to taste
1 500-gram long pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
1.  Make a sofrito by heating your sauce pan with a little water, then cook your bacon strips in it until water evaporates and oil from the bacon comes out.  Continue cooking until crisp, then take out the bacon and set aside.  With the bacon fat, sauté the onion, carrot and celery until fragrant.  This is equivalent to gisa in Filipino cooking.
2.  Add the ground beef and cook until brown.  Meanwhile, chop the cooked bacon into large bits.  When the beef has browned, add back the bacon followed by the pureed tomato then season with salt and pepper, and cover, braising the meat for 15 minutes.
3.  Uncover, stir in the wine, and continue cooking until it starts boiling.  Check seasoning.
4.  Pour sauce over pasta, grate fresh parmesan over it and serve with heated baguette.