Sunday, June 26, 2011

philippine spinach (talinum fruticosum) salad

Meet the Philippine Spinach (Talinum fruticosum). It is also called Ceylon spinach, Fame flower, Potherb Fameflower, Surinam Purslane, Sweetheart, and Waterleaf. It is cultivated as a leafy vegetable in Africa and South and Southeast Asia.

In the Philippines, it goes by the name 'talinum,' and is often dismissed as a weed. Because of this, talinum is practically impossible to buy in the country. So you don't have much choice but to grow it on your own. The good news is that talinum is easy to grow and propagate via seed or cutting, and it doesn't need that much space. It likes a lot of sun, though. I have seen talinum growing happily in recycled water bottles hanging from the kitchen window grilles of a friend's 14th floor apartment.

Talinum is a tropical herbaceous perennial plant rich in vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, and dietary fiber. The young leaves and stalks are used raw or blanched in salads. They are also cooked in a variety of ways just like spinach. In our kitchen, talinum is often used in salads, stir-fried greens, sinigang, and fried rice.

This is one recipe for talinum salad.

3 cups raw talinum
2 to 3 ripe tomatoes
2 shallots
water for blanching
salt to taste

(01) Pick young talinum shoots from your garden. The stalk should be easy to pinch off. If there's some resistance, it may already be too old. So move up the stalk until it breaks off easily.

(02) Wash the talinum thoroughly and remove any flowers and seeds. If some of the stalks are too hard, remove the hard portions. Detach the leaves from these hard portions. You can still use the leaves for this recipe.

(03) Boil enough water in a pot to blanche the talinum. You have to be ready with tongs or a slotted spoon to fish out the talinum as soon as they wilt.

(04) Remove the talinum from the water and dump them in a bowl of cool water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

(05) Cube the ripe tomatoes. Set aside.

(06) Peel the shallots and slice thinly. Set aside.

(07) Mix the blanched talinum, tomatoes, and shallots in a bowl. Season with salt.

We often pair this talinum salad with chickpea or mung bean fritters. It also goes well with vegetarian barbecue. And it is a great way to make boiled eggs exciting.

By the way, according to most of what i've read, Talinum fruticosum and Talinum triangulare are one and the same.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

microwaved saba

One of the most noticeable changes when you shift to vegetarianism is the shorter time lapse between a meal and hunger pangs. So between meals, one tends to look for snacks. Nuts are always a good option. And boiled camote and saba are both nutritious and filling options. The problem with boiling, though, is that it's impractical to do it in small batches, so the tendency is to cook several pieces in one go. So what happens is you get stuck with more than enough boiled camote and bananas than you want to eat. And though boiled camote and bananas can keep, they don't taste very nice when not freshly cooked. the simplest solution to this is to microwave the banana. (NOTE microwaving camote has, so far, been an unsuccessful enterprise.)

1 ripe saba banana
1 fork
microwave oven

(01) Wash the saba and pierce the skin with a fork. I like to pierce it once on each side.

(02) Place the pierced saba in the microwave and cook on regular setting for a minute.

(03) Allow the saba to cool for about another minute before peeling.

I have microwaved up to five pieces of saba in one batch using the same setting and cooking for one minute.

Microwaved saba has the same texture as the boiled version, but the taste is sweeter.
photo by Carole Cancler

Sunday, June 12, 2011

tvp adobo

Today is Philippine Independence Day, and I am posting a recipe of a dish that quickly comes to mind when you think of Philippine cuisine. Today's simple vegetarian recipe is adobo using TVP (textured vegetable protein).

TVP, also known as textured soy protein, is made of soy flour and is a by-product of the soybean oil extraction process. It is rich in protein, and it looks a bit like dry dog food. It is readily available in vegetarian and chinese grocery stores. Since I'm often in the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, I usually buy my TVP from Likha Diwa, a vegetarian restaurant on C.P. Garcia.

this particular adobo recipe requires the following ingredients.

2 cups dry TVP
2/3 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 to 4 cloves garlic crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
cornstarch dissolved in cold water
water for hydrating tvp and for adobo sauce
vegetable oil for frying
salt to taste
sugar to taste

Begin by hydrating the TVP in a large bowl filled with hot water. Let the TVP soak for about 30 minutes. You will know the TVP is ready because it has more than doubled in size and no longer has any hard sections. Pour out the water and squeeze the TVP dry. I rinse the TVP in another bowlful of water and squeeze the TVP dry once more for good measure. The TVP is now ready for frying. If the TVP seems too large, you may choose to slice it into smaller chunks.

(1) Heat enough vegetable oil in a pan to deep fry the hydrated TVP.

(2) Fry the TVP until golden brown and place them in a dish lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil.

(3) Remove the oil from the pan, taking care to leave about a serving spoonful of oil.

(4) Saute crushed garlic just until fragrant. You want the garlic to remain white.

(5) Return the fried TVP into the pan.

(6) Pour in 1 1/3 cups of water, 2/3 cup vinegar, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. at this point, do not stir the concoction at any cost. you may only stir the mixture AFTER it has boiled. Cover the pan and wait for the liquid to boil.

(7) Add black peppercorns and bay leaf. Be sure to crush the bay leaf in your hand before throwing it into the pan.

(8) Season with salt and sugar depending on your taste. You may omit the sugar if you want to.

(9) Allow the whole thing to simmer for a few minutes and let the liquid reduce.

(10) If you want the adobo sauce to be thick, pour in some slurry made of cornstarch dissolved in a little water.

(11) Once you are happy with the taste and consistency of your adobo, remove from heat and serve with steamed rice.

I usually pair this adobo with lots of ripe tomato slices and salted duck eggs or a nice atchara (vegetable chutney). It also goes well with a leafy salad with tomatoes and shallots.

Now here's an even easier version of the recipe above. When I'm in a hurry, I use Mama Sita's adobo mix. Follow the recipe up to Step 5. Then add the adobo mix prepared according to package directions. Cover the pan and wait until the sauce has boiled and has reduced.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

moondish laing (all veggies)

When I first discovered this product at the grocery, I was skeptical. I read and reread the label, and I couldn't believe that I was holding a Philippine canned product that was vegetarian-friendly. According to the label, a can of MoonDish Laing (All Veggies) contains coconut cream, taro leaves and stalks, ginger, salt, red chili pepper, and garlic. MoonDish's vegetarian take on the traditional Bicolano laing proved to be quite delicious. And to this day we keep several cans handy in our pantry for when nobody has time to cook or when one of us craves laing.

Aside from the laing being quite delicious, it also is relatively inexpensive. If memory serves, a can retails at under 40 pesos.

MoonDish Laing (All Veggies) is best served with steamed rice and fried tofu cubes. I also use it as a topping for fried bread.

Be careful when buying MoonDish Laing (All Veggies), though. You have to read the label carefully to make sure it's the All Veggies variety that you're buying. They have a "traditional" laing with fish paste and one with tuna flakes, and the packaging is basically the same except for the color band. All Veggies is green, Traditional is red, and Tuna Flakes is blue.

photo by Jen Valmonte

moringa (malunggay), squash, camote soup

Meet the moringa (malunggay in Filipino). Because we are Ilocano, my sister and I eat the fruit and flower of the moringa aside from the leaf. Most Filipinos limit themselves to the leaf.

I love using moringa because it is nutritious, and it has a delicious taste. And it lends itself beautifully to soups. And for those shifting to vegetarianism, one of the frequent problems is finding vegetarian soup. We think it's difficult making vegetarian soup because we are have been conditioned to use meat stock.

Here is our recipe for moringa, squash, camote soup. it's so easy to make, even a those who can't cook can't possibly mess this up.

2 cups moringa leaves
1 wedge squash peeled and sliced thinly
1 medium camote peeled and sliced thinly
half an onion sliced
3 cloves garlic crushed and peeled
salt to taste
vegetable oil for sauteing
5 cups water

(01) Heat vegetable oil in a pot.

(02) Lower heat and saute onions until they start turning brown.

(03) Add the garlic and saute until they become fragrant.

(04) Add squash and camote slices and stir.

(05) Pour in water and increase the heat.

(06) Boil the camote and squash until tender. We want the squash and camote to start disintegrating. you can help them along by mashing the squash and camote with the back of a spoon.

(07) Add moringa leaves and simmer for two minutes.

(08) Season with salt.

moringa illustration from Fray Blanco's Flora de Manila