Monday, July 21, 2008

What's Cooking inside Battik's Kitchen?

Ginisang Ampalaya that’s what! I hate to call it sautéed bitter gourd. It seems to take away the personality of the whole dish. (At this point, I wish to thank Ms. Salgado, my teacher in T.H.E., for teaching us that ampalaya is bitter gourd.)

I haven’t cooked anything in a while. I actually think my magic in the kitchen has ebbed. I used to whip up decent meals out of available materials in our kitchen. Then I took a step back. Why? That'll be another story. I am excited about this dish for one simple reason, I am documenting it here. For everyone!

Ginisang ampalaya is so easy to prepare. It may only take 20-30 minutes. But I am a slow cooker—I do a lot of segues—so it usually takes me at least an hour.

With this dish and blog entry, I am glad to add a new compartment to my blog. I’m calling it “battik’s kitchen.” It really has nothing to do with what is in my sister’s blog, A Mummy’s Kitchen. Actually, this entry is inspired by Nikka’s Confessions on a Kitchen Floor which displays way more sophisticated recipes that do her chef’s uniform justice. Partly Meowbykate influenced me, too, with her piece on spaghetti. So did JDWorld with the posts on his latest culinary ventures.

The demi ingredients of this dish are chopped garlic, cubed onions (or diced if you want them to be barely there), and cubed tomato. Although supporting characters they may seem, they are key players, too. Because they are the ones that make this dish ginisa in the first place. And handling them is pretty simple. You just have to throw them in the pan one after the other.

I’m in a perky mood today having been able to e-mail some of the people I’ve worked with. You’ve got to keep in touch, you know? It’s one of the basic things in life we sometimes take for granted. After slipping out of the habit of erasing myself from people’s lives every so often, I’ve come to realize how vital it is stay connected especially to people who, at one point in our lives, mattered to us. Because maintaining relationships makes our being human special in the first place. It isn’t very difficult, really. We only have to throw in a piece of ourselves here and there from time to time.

Shrimps can do wonders to ginisa. They are capable of making your dish rich. Peel off the shells of some shrimps—how many? You’re the boss! You’re the one who’s going to eat your creation anyway. Me, I take time in dolling up my shrimps. I cannot go near raw shrimps without deveining them. Yes, it is a bit tedious but I enjoy the whole process. It makes the shrimps look better when cooked.

Day 31 in Singapore is pretty much promising for me. I am in the proactive mood to find that perfect job that will hopefully make my bank account rich. Yes, it is a good strategy to send out a million resumes a day, but I also take the time studying what I am trying to get myself into. It is a slow process, reading one company profile after another, but it makes applying for a job more heartfelt than simply clicking “quick apply.”

Make sure you do not throw away the shrimps’ shells without getting the most out of them. They’re not all stinky rubbish, you see. I once saw on Discovery Channel that in Japan, they clean up shrimp shells, add a certain chemical to it, melt the shells and turn them into plastic. Good news: You need not go through those troubles for Ginisang Ampalaya. You just have to crush the shrimp shells (head included), submerge in water, then strain to get the juice which will serve as the sauce for your dish. The good stuff is in the stock, throw away the exhausted and crushed shells as they might rip your throat if you eat them.

Add the shrimp stock into the now, aromatic concoction inside your pan. Allow it to simmer, if not boil.

Among the, say, millions of resumes I send out in a day, 2% will bounce back, 13% will send me an acknowledgement letter to let me know they received my mail, 14% will tell me they were flattered I applied but they don’t think they’d be needing my services, while 71% will keep me in suspense and, chances are, half of them I will never hear anything from. The other half will hopefully call me in for an interview. Hopefully. Going through a strainer of blatant and silent rejections will leave a dent mostly on my ego, but I’d rather concentrate on the good stuff—the probable light at the end of my tunnel. And if the light is promising enough, I wouldn’t mind being crushed for a while.

Now the star of our show can do its majestic entrance. Welcome, big old bitter gourd!

Our Pinoy ampalayas are smaller so you may want to use more than one fruit. I discovered that my dad and I are the same in that when we see produce—fruits and vegetables—which are bigger than they are supposed to be, we say, “GMO.”

Since the ampalaya I used is pretty big, I opted to divide it in three small parts before I cut it in half. Once the insides of the fruit (?) is exposed, you can scrape off the seed using a spoon. Get rid of the seeds and don’t hesitate to wash what-is-left-of-your-ampalaya.

Next, slice your ampalaya thinly, but if you want them thick, then go ahead! Most people hate ampalaya because of its distinct bitter taste. My parents have a way of reducing the bitterness…of the ampalaya. You rub salt at the sliced ampalayas. I think diffusion has something to do with it. Eventually the salt will suck away the bitterness, or the ampalayas will suck in the saltiness. Either way, you end up lessening the strong bitter flavour.

Perhaps that’s just how things are. They can be distinctly bitter at times but with a bit of remedy here and there, miserable can turn into fine. People can actually live with it. Besides, where is the fun in living if we get everything sweet? Right?

Ampalayas in Singapore aren’t sweet but they are not very bitter, either. Not much challenge for masochist bitter seekers. So with the one I’m using, I skipped the usual salt-rubbing step. All I had to do next is to pop my sliced ampalayas inside my simmering pan. Tatay Cinto once strictly instructed me never to stir ampalayas while cooking. According to him, it’ll make the dish intolerably bitter.

Makes sense. When everyone’s in heat, it will be wise not to shake things up any further; otherwise you may end up sorry.

When everything inside your pan is simmering, you can add your final ingredient, the perennial beaten eggs. It makes your creation a whole lot tastier.

I talked to my dad today. Although he was there to watch his apo (not from me—apo from my Ate), it is comforting to be reminded that whenever I feel bland and unimportant, I’ll always have my parents to think I am special.

When your instincts tell you that your dish is almost ready, you can start adding in your spices. Salt and pepper, in moderation, always work. Doing taste tests are also good.

I re-applied for an EPEC. And although the possibility of getting rejected may shake me up again, EPEC is just a spice of life. It’s not like my world revolves around it. But I had to try again and hope that this time, it'll work.

Bring everything into a simmer. And viola! It’s done! Sooner or later, it will be done.

Place your creation on a decent plate and enjoy!

I am not one of those people who have extra taste buds that make a food connoisseur. I just eat. I prepare my meals the best way I can with whatever passion I can muster and hope that my masterpiece is a success.

And today, it almost is.

1 comment:

meow. said...

ang sarap! and yes, you have to devein the shrimp talaga because yun yung digestive system nila. leaving it in means leaving the intestines, poop and all. eew. except shemps pag super lit na ng hipon. hehe. miss you tye! next time lutuan mo ako nyan. pag balik ha!