The Trattoria Project and Spectaculars: 2008

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Really good(and easy) noodles. Recession friendly.. uhh.. relatively.

Ginger-infused Dark Noodles with Spicy Fried Eggplants

It's cold outside and you're broke and you've been surviving on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week. I feel your pain. Let's get drunk on cheap whiskey like hobos, admire our trophy mantels and commit seppuku with a plastic knife.


I hope everyone is looking on the bright side somehow because everything happens for a reason. Like how my new restricted meal budget has expanded my creativity to make use with what I can afford and have them taste amazing. See, the recession isn't so bad after all, it allows us to settle down to reorganize our plans for a bit and realize the things we've been taking for granted and hiding from all these while. In other words, it's the right opportunity to make you a better person if you want to. Everyday is a new day to learn something. Start afresh tomorrow and be happy, because you can. (what? no applause?)

Spend less than ten bucks*, and serve really good noodles for four with the recipe I'm about to show you. It consists mainly of rice vermicelli, not the chinese dried type but the ones already cooked and packed in plastic wraps. If you can't find them, get Spaghetoni or Bucati, it works great as well.

* That's presuming you already have the spices and condiments at home.
** Okay, I might be wrong. But just to be fair, it costs SGD$8 in my country.

Hot, invigorating, saucy and absolutely luscious.

Ginger-infused Dark Noodles with Spicy Fried Eggplants
serves 4

1 pack of Rice Vermicelli or cooked Bucati
200g Minced Pork
3/4 cup Dark Sweet Soy (careful, don't get the over-salty ones)
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
2 tsp Shaoxing Wine or Sherry
1 thumb of Ginger, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 Tbsp Sesame oil
White Pepper
Corn or Olive Oil

4 small Japanese Eggplants or 1 large Eggplant, sliced lengthwise
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Cornstarch

Fried Shallots
Chives or Spring Onions

- Heat oil in a hot pan.
- Saute ginger for 3 mins. Add pork and saute for further 3 mins.
- Add wine, dark soy, soy sauce and rice vermicelli. Toss with tongs.
- Saute for 5 mins, until noodles are well coated with sauce.
- Discard ginger.
- Turn off heat, add sesame oil and white pepper.

- Salt eggplants and let rest for 15mins.
- Add spices and cornstarch, eggplants should be sticky now.
- In a saucepan, heat oil until relatively hot, fry eggplants in batches until they turn golden brown. Set to rest on wire rack.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunday Night Happy

Seared Sea Scallops with Quail Eggs and Caper-Oregano Vinaigrette
on a bed of Corn and Brussel Succotash drizzled with Black Truffle Oil

If you're not on a tight budget, I'd say get bigger scallops! Because I will admit shamelessly now that I bought 3 medium sized ones and sliced them into half and they were not nearly as enjoyable as I thought they might be. To hell with the economic downturn! Not because uncle dee lost his stocks but because the food prices strangely went up again. So if anyone knows of a place for me to get inexpensive, wide-ranging and fresh produce in this tiny little island of ours, contact me with the details because I will be eternally f******* grateful and might even send you a tub of demi-glace that I'm about to make again.

Now that I have roughly avoided my cheapskate personality from being perceived, let us move on to the dish itself.

In all honesty, this is not an original creation. The root recipe came from the really expensive Gordon Ramsay Three Star cookbook. I had wanted to try this for the longest time, but the largest of excuses and procrastinations has always got the better of me. Till one f****** fine day, when I chanced upon a read at Zen Chef's blog, I had a boner.

I mean look at those scallops - so nice, so round, caramelized with that sexy little quail egg oh my god this is insane. Some call it food porn, I call it a boner.

A frantic, mind-drilling week awaits. Tonight I rest and not think of tomorrow. For tomorrow will be tomorrow itself. On the unusually calm night that is now, I converted the fantasy that gave me the boner into reality. And GOD it was good.

Adapted from a Gordon Ramsay recipe
serves 4

4 Large Fresh Sea Scallops, halved
1 tbsp Curry Powder
8 Quail Eggs
zest of 1 Lemon
knob of Butter
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

1 large knob of fresh Corn, kernels sliced off the cob
1 tbsp chopped Prosciutto di Parma or Pancetta
300g Brussel Sprouts, roots removed, julienned
1/2 cup Dry Vermouth or Sherry
1 knob of Butter
2 tsp of Cream
2 cloves of Garlic, chopped
tonnes of Black Pepper
Sea Salt

Caper-Oregano Vinaigrette
2 tbsp Capers, rinsed and dried
1 handful fresh Oregano, chopped
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 med Shallot, chopped
1 tbsp Champagne or White Wine Vinegar
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
1/2 cup of EVOO


Black Truffle Oil

-Subtly dust scallops with curry powder, salt and pepper.
-Lightly coat with zest.
-Get a pan searing hot, add butter.
-Sear scallops 30 secs a side, add a touch of EVOO to stop it from burning then further sear it for 15 secs.
-Remove immediately and let it rest on a wire rack.
Using a paring knife, tap on the tip of the quail's egg to crack. (unless u have tiny and sharp fingernails) Cook eggs on the same pan for 20secs, remove and set aside.

-Get a pan searing hot, add butter, garlic and prosciutto.
-When garlic starts to turn golden brown, add in corn and brussels. Toss. Saute for 2 mins.
-Add vermouth. Reduce. Season lightly with salt but lots of black pepper. Add a touch of EVOO if it looks like its starting to burn.
-Saute until brussels are tender, turn off heat.
-Stir in cream and set aside.

-Blitz everything in a blender for 1 min.
-To serve, spoon succotash on a plate, top with scallops then egg, then a dot of vinaigrette and drizzle with black truffle oil.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stayin' Alive (Ahhhh, Ahhh, Ahh, Ah.)

Everyone thinks I'm too lazy to update the blog. Fair enough. Guilty as charged. But just so you know, every time you think I'm bumming around, the stock market plunges. Look what happened, the world is heading for a global recession. Next time, think of something more positive, like "uncle dee must be busy with a hot chick". So for the sake of the global economy believe me when I say I am occupied with something because I really am.

Nonetheless, I haven't forsaken cooking. In fact, I'd cooked 16 times since the last post. 4 failed experiments, 3 ingenious creations, 4 adapted ones and 5 repeat recipes. 8 times out of 16 I couldn't be bothered to take a food photo. 3 times out of 16 I forgotten to charge the camera. Yes. I see your math is good, I have 5 new photos left.  

So now I present to you, my five recipes of Aug 12th - Oct 17th. Enjoy, cook for your love and make babies. Ciao.

Spicy Sausage and Okra Orzo
serves 4

2 cups Orzo
6 med links of Spicy Sausages, skin removed, diced
4 med Okra, sliced
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 Pimento Peppers or Red Peppers, diced
1 large Onion, diced
1 heart of Celery, chopped
1/2 liter Chicken Stock and a little extra, just in case
1 handful fresh Sage Leaves
1/2 Tbsp Cumin
1/2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 Tbsp Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Red Chili Flakes
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Zest of 1 Lemon
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

- In a hot dutch oven, drizzle a little EVOO, brown sausages for few minutes then add onions, celery, tomatoes, sage, oregano, half of the paprika and cumin, pepper and a little salt. Saute 5 mins. Add in chicken stock and simmer for 20 mins. Drain mixture into a bowl to separate sausages and stuff from stock.

- In a hot pan, drizzle about 2 Tbsps of EVOO, add pimentos and okra and saute for a bit. Add in orzo, rest of the paprika and cumin, chili flakes and cayenne. Coat them with the hot oil and saute for 5 mins. 

- Using a ladle, pour in 2 scoops of stock and let the orzo absorb all the liquid before adding another scoop. Do this until the orzo's cooked to al dente. Takes about 15-20mins.

- When orzo is cooked, add in sausages and stuff to cook through. Turn off heat, drizzle in lemon juice. Check seasoning. Sprinkle lemon zest and a little olive oil for garnish. Serve. 

Pasta alla Norma
serves 4 

1lb Pancetta or Bacon
1 whole Eggplant or 4 mini Japanese Eggplants, sliced
200g Spaghetti 
1 can of Roma Tomatoes, crushed
2 Tbsp Tomato Puree
4 clove of Garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tsp Dried Oregano
2 tsp chopped Chili
1/2 cup Dry Vermouth or White Wine
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

- Boil pasta in salted boiling water for half the time it takes to cook. Drain and set aside. It should be hard in the middle.

- On a hot pan, render bacon fat. Takes about 10 mins on med-low heat.

- Using bacon fat, fry eggplants with chili, garlic, oregano and black pepper.

- When eggplants turn light brown, add in tomato puree, saute for further 5 mins. 

- Add white wine and deglaze bacon residue. 

- Add in pasta and crushed tomatoes. Simmer until pasta is al dente.

- Add EVOO. Season. Serve.

Ginger Ponzu Steak with Poached Eggs
serves 2

500g Skirt Steak
1 thumb of Ginger, shredded
2 Tbsp Ponzu
2 tsp Honey
Black Pepper

a handful of Haricot Verts, poached and sliced
a handful of Thai Asparagus, poached and sliced
a handful of Chives, sliced
1 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
Sea Salt 
Black Pepper

2 Eggs, cracked into two separate ramekins, yolk intact
Pot of boiling salted water
1 Tbsp Vinegar, any

- Preheat oven 180C.
- Marinate steak with all the ingredients for 15 mins.
- On a non-stick pan on medium, sear steak 2 mins a side. They caramelize quickly due to sugar content.
- Transfer steak into a sheet of aluminum foil, wrap it up and throw it in the oven for 5 mins.
- Remove from oven and let rest for another 5 mins. Slice them up.

- Toss.

Poached Eggs
- Stir the pot of boiling salted water with a spatula or whisk until you get a huge ass whirlpool. 
- Add vinegar.
- Carefully slide in the eggs one at a time and watch the egg whites magically wrap around the yolk.
- After 3 mins, remove the eggs gently with a slotted spoon.

Lay steak on plate, top with salad and then the egg. Slice the egg a little on the edge so all the yellow goodness comes out.

Grilled Miso Fish with Sweet Bunashimeji and Daikon Puree
serves 4

Miso Fish
4 White Fish Fillets, preferably Cod or Perch
2 Tbsp Miso
1 cup Mirin
2 Tbsp Sake or Rice Wine
White Pepper

200g Shimeji Mushrooms
1 med Shallot, sliced
1 clove of Garlic, peeled
1/2 cup Mirin
1/2 cup Kikkoman Soy
White Pepper

Daikon Puree
1 med Daikon Radish, skinned and diced
500ml Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 cup Milk
Sea Salt 
Black Pepper

Miso Fish

Preheat oven 200C.

In a saucepan, add mirin, miso and sake. Bring to boil and let it simmer for 5 mins.

Baste fish with miso mixture and allow it to marinate for at least 15mins. The longer the better. Best overnight.

In a hot pan, melt a knob of butter and sear fish 4 mins a side.

Finish it off in the oven for 5 mins.

Saute garlic and shallots in butter until golden brown. Add mushrooms and saute for 5 mins. Add mirin, soy and pepper. Reduce until sauce consistency. Discard garlic.

Daikon Puree
Poach daikon in boiling chicken stock for 15 mins. Drain, reserving some stock. Puree daikon and put it back in a saucepan on low heat. Add butter and milk. Stir for 5mins until most liquid have evaporated. Season.

Parmesan and Basil Crusted Chicken with a Fennel, Apple and Grapefruit Salad and Honey Soy Vinaigrette
serves 4

4 Boneless Chicken Breast, skin removed, pound to tenderize
1 Handful of Freshly Grated Parmesan 
2 cups of Panko Breadcrumbs
1 small bunch of Basil, chopped
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Egg, beaten
1 cup Flour
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

1 bulb of Fennel, shaved with a mandolin
2 Red Apples, julienned
1 large Grapefruit, peeled and 'supremed'
1 small bunch of Cilantro, chopped
1 tsp Whole Grain Mustard
Sea Salt 
Black Pepper

1 Tbsp Accacia or Orange Blossom Honey
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 Tbsp Malt Vinegar
2 tsp High Quality Soy Sauce
1 clove of Garlic, chopped
1 cup EVOO

- Pat dry breasts and season with salt and pepper.
- Mix Parmesan, Basil, Zest and Panko together and lay it out on a flat plate.
- Coat evenly with flour.
- Coat evenly with the beaten egg.
- Coat evenly with panko mixture. 
- Tap more crumbs on the chicken to ensure even coating.
- On a hot non stick pan, heat EVOO and sear chicken for 3.5 mins a side until brown and crispy. Keep in mind you do not want to overcook the chicken or undercook it, 3.5mins per side is a good timing for a relatively thick breast(like the one in the picture). 
- Set aside on a wire rack to cool.

- Put everything in a bowl and toss! Use your fairy fingers, be delicate.

- Whisk everything in a bowl.
- Taste. Add more soy if required.

Putting it altogether:
1. Make the vinaigrette.
2. Make the salad, chill in fridge.
3. Cook the chicken. 
4. When chicken is ready, slice it up and immediately serve with salad on top and drizzle vinaigrette.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Seared Sea Scallops, Fresh Fruit Salad and Curry Vinaigrette

Life is good.

God I love fresh scallops. I don't really buy them because they cost like a bunch of trophy bitches on golden pedestals. But I bought some anyway because I was starving and my paycheck just got through. Now I can't afford train fare. But it's all good, I'll try my luck hitching rides from the sociopaths.

Seared Sea Scallops, Fresh Fruit Salad and Curry Vinaigrette
serves 4

12 medium sized Sea Scallops, organs removed
2 Granny Smith Apples, julienned
1 handful Baby Romaine Lettuce, wash and patted dry
1 handful Cashews, roasted
2 Blood Oranges, supremed
1 Tbsp Curry Powder
juice of 1 Lemon (2 Tbsps)
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

- Using a quarter of the curry powder, sprinkle lightly on scallops. Season. Sear in hot butter 45 secs a side. Set aside. Drizzle a little lemon juice. (2 tsps)

- Whisk rest of curry powder and lemon juice with EVOO. Season.

- Toss everything and serve.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Last Minute Entertaining

Prosciutto Wrapped Snapper with Vanilla Oil

Ten minutes. Succulent fish, crispy aromatic wrap, sweet subtle oil, tart crunchy garnish - very satisfying indeed. Try.

Serves 4

2 Snapper or Perch Fillets, skinned
4 slices of Prosciutto di Parma
small handfuls of Baby Frisee and Radicchio
juice of 1/4 Lemon
1/2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 tsp Orange Blossom Honey
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Vanilla Oil*

- Coat fillets with black pepper. Wrap each fillet with 2 slices of Prosciutto.
- Get a pan really hot. Add a dash of EVOO and sear fillets for 4 mins a side.
- While searing the fish, whisk L.J, honey, vinegar, EVOO, salt and pepper. Dress greens lightly.
- When fish is done, remove from pan and allow it to rest for 30secs.
- Slice fish, add greens on top and drizzle vanilla oil.

*If you can't find it anywhere then this is how you make it:
500ml Light Olive Oil
1 Vanilla Pod

- Score pod into half and drop it in a bottle of light olive oil for 3 days.

Can be stored for months. Shake before use.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Zucchini Pasta with Fried Silver Fish and Lemon Oil

Work has been keeping me insanely busy. If you haven't already know, I'm currently part of a hair salon to get enough funds for the Trattoria. We all know managing a hair salon has nothing to do with food, but in my eyes, it's a brilliant opportunity to learn the dynamics of leading a business structure effectively. Which in my opinion, is crucial for an ass-kicking Trattoria.

While I am not in the kitchen for the past few weeks, I have been gathering inspirations for new recipes and flavor, through nights of dining and days of lunch takeaways from the very delicious meals around my workplace.

I found sweet time to cook today. But this is no inspiration. I just wanted to eat some zucchinis.

serves 2

300g Spaghetti, cooked
100g Silver Fish
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp Crushed Pepper Flakes
1 cup Flour
Handful of Freshly Chopped Parsley
1 med Zucchini, julienned
1 cup Dry Vermouth
3 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 small Shallots, minced
1 large Red Chili, chopped
Lemon Infused Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

- Toss silver fish with salt, flour, half the zest, pepper and pepper flakes.

- Fry silver fish in hot oil until crispy, set aside.

- In a hot pan, saute garlic, shallots and chili in EVOO.

- Add in zucchini and saute for further 5 mins. Season.

- Add vermouth and let it reduce for 5 mins. Season.

- Add in rest of the zest, pasta and parsley, toss. Adding additional EVOO if necessary.

- Serve on plate with fried silverfish, drizzle lemon oil. Serve.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

5 Minute Wonder

Bruschetta of Buffalo Mozzarella, Anchovies, Spring Onions and Chili

Simple, fast and absolutely mind blowing. Impress and make merry.

serves 4

1 loaf Foccacia or Ciabatta, sliced
2 balls of fresh Buffalo Mozzarella sliced
4 Anchovy Fillets in oil, finely chopped
100g Spring Onions, chopped
100g Red Chili, seeded and chopped
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
Black Pepper
Tuscan EVOO

- Mix anchovies, spring onions, chili, mustard, EVOO and pepper in a bowl. Do not SALT.

- Brush bread slices with a little EVOO, lay a slice of mozzarella on each slice and grill for 5mins.

- Subtly sprinkle top of each bread slice with anchovy mixture.

- Drizzle EVOO and crack in more pepper. Serve.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lamb Almighty

I have to admit, I have no idea what lamb medallions are. They're what's left on the fresh lamb section besides the surplus amounts of terrible looking marinated chops and racks of overpriced skinnies. I desperately needed lamb so I had to get some. This happens when you're still brooding over an overdone lamb with an outrageous sweet potato puree the night before.

We all learn from mistakes. It came to me that cooking in a drunken state doesn't better my prowess. It only makes it unimaginable.

Five hours worth of caffeine induced thoughts later, I gave man birth to a dish of orgasmic proportions I would love to call, "the super lamb jesus wants you to sacrifice to". Mightily delicious as it sounds, words will not do justice to my shamelessness until you try this yourself. If you do, please do not hesitate to mail me the results and I will publish it good or not.

Pan Seared Lamb Medallions on Butter Bean Stew with Salsa Verde
serves 2

600g Lamb Medallions or Lamb Steak, visible fat trimmed
a handful Rosemary leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Tumeric
1 Tbsp crushed Black Pepper
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 knob of Butter
1 cup Chicken Stock
Sea Salt

-Mix all ingredients together except salt, evoo, stock and butter. Marinate 15-30mins.
-Get pan hot on medium high heat. Add a little EVOO and butter. When it starts to smoke a little, sear lamb at 3-4mins a side for medium. Baste continuously with pan oil and butter when searing. Set lamb aside and drain oil.
-Deglaze pan with chicken stock and set pan jus aside.

Bean Stew
400g can of Butter Beans, drained
2 rashers Pancetta or Bacon, chopped
1 Carrot, minced
1 stalk of Celery, minced
1 medium Red Onion, minced
2 cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 sprig of Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Sea Salt

-Get dutch oven hot on low heat. Render bacon fat for 5 mins. Turn up heat to medium and add carrots, onions, celery and a little EVOO if it's too dry. Saute 5 mins.
-Add tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, garlic and pepper. Toss. Saute until vegetables are lightly caramelized.
-Add beans and toss. Saute 5 mins. Add stock and bring to boil. Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered until right consistency. Season to taste.

Salsa Verde

1 cup Basil
1 cup Italian Parsley
1 cup Mint
3 fillets of Anchovies
1 Tbsp Capers
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 small Shallot, peeled
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 cup EVOO

- Throw everything in a blender. Blitz and set aside. No salt.

Putting it altogether:

-Make bean stew until half way through last step when it's simmering.
-Sear lamb and set aside. Deglaze. Add pan jus to bean stew.
-Blitz salsa verde.
-Bean stew is ready. Fold in 1 Tbsp of Salsa Verde.
-To plate, ladle stew in the middle of plate, top with lamb. Drizzle remaining Salsa Verde if desired.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Evaluation Four, The Critics Who Shall Not be Named

Lady S, Lady P, J Dude & R Dude. They insisted to remain anonymous.

First Dish:
Duet of Tapenade Bruschetta, Grilled Portabello with Truffled Arugula Salad, Garbanzo and Zingy Herbs.

Lady S: 8/10. "Mushroom is perfectly done. Soft tender and flavorful. Awesome."
Lady P: 6/10. "Perfect mushroom. But I'm not big on Garbanzo beans. Smaller bread next time."
J Dude: 8.5/10. "The chickpea bruschetta is really unique and the acidity from both dishes were perfectly balanced."
R Dude: 8.5/10. "8.5 for the mushroom. 8 for the Garbanzo."

Second Dish:
Nicoise Salad - Haricot Vert, Milk Poached Anchovies, New Potatoes, Quail Eggs, Seared Tuna, Brazil Nuts.

Lady S: 7.5/10. "It can be improved. Tuna is too bland."
Lady P: 7/10. "I love the Tuna and the Quail Eggs. However I wished there were more greens."
J Dude: 7/10. "Tuna is lacking of depth and intensity. Again, the seasoning and acidity is perfect."
R Dude: 8/10. "Those nuts are really working, very fragrant. But this is a little too salty for me."

Fava Bean and Mint Risotto with Grilled Asparagus and Roasted Prosciutto Di Parma.

Lady S: 6/10. "I prefer my asparagus to be crunchy. This is not creamy enough. Good try."
Lady P: 4/10. "Don't like it. No comments."
J Dude: 7.5/10. "Ham goes really well with the risotto. This would be perfect with some lamb!"
R Dude: 7/10. "Your presentation is lacking and this might be too watery. I don't really like risottos but I finished the plate. Yes! Lamb!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My one steady Tomato Bruschetta recipe. Try, impress and make merry.

You can't go wrong with this.. You better not.

Make sure you've got ready fresh ingredients before you attempt this very delicious recipe. That means no orangey Asian tomatoes, no pre-grated little sticks of Parmesan, no olive oil from China and no supermarket mass produced bread! Otherwise, the result will be like the homemade-lesser-than-average meal you, your friends and/or families silently wish they never had. Tested and painfully proven.

Tomato Bruschetta
serves 4

4 ripe Roma Tomatoes or any Vine-Ripen Tomatoes, diced
8 slices of freshly baked Baugette or Ciabatta
3 cloves of Garlic, peeled, finely chop 2 cloves
1 cup Rocket Leaves
1 Thyme Sprig
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Tuscan EVOO or any other high quality fruity EVOO
shaved Italian Parmesan
Fleur de Sel or any Flaky Sea Salt
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

-Mix tomatoes, 1 Tbsp EVOO, thyme sprig, chopped garlic and pepper in a bowl and let it marinate for 15 mins. Stir occasionally.

-Lightly brush all sides of bread with EVOO and grill until golden brown. Remove from grill and rub all sides with the whole garlic clove.

-Remove thyme sprig from tomato mixture and serve on top of bread.

-Sprinkle salt, scatter Parmesan and Rockets. Drizzle a little EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Serve.

Rejects for the week. 8th -15th June. Because I'm only human.

Gnocchi was soft and fluffy, quite nice. The sauce however, was way too heavy. What a waste.

Avocado was crunchy. Enough said.

Looks are deceiving, people! :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mmmmm. Mhmm. Mhm!

What I absolutely adore about rustic cooking is the awesome combination of fresh flavors and the intense depth of character it brings. All you ladies out there correct me if I'm wrong, but this has to be the one style of food all real men should like. Real men. Not some douche bag with a pirate swagger. But that guy who pushes your buttons right and makes you feel like you're hanging out with a diamond in the rough. Of course, I'm not directly implying that one such individual is myself. I mean.. why would I do that?

What I also absolutely adore is sitting down with a luscious cup of Italian coffee and a good book for Sunday brunch. While many restaurants don't offer that here, people like me will develop a habit to have it at home or a friend's place. I make mine with whatever leftovers I have in the chiller from the past week. Nothing goes to waste, and I get the chance to work on my creativity.

Lying at the little cozy compartment of my fridge are a bunch of Bunashimeji mushrooms I had left from making some beef noodles early on last Friday. I thought making a pie out of these extremely delectable and fragrantly nutty mushrooms would be a hideous waste of food quality. In fact, I was just about to make a pie out of it until a quarter loaf of my three day old Pullman was discovered hiding under the dark roof of my lonely breadbox. You won't need fortune teller to predict what will happen next.
Holy vegan meatballs! It's a rustic dish!

Grilled Asparagus with Perfectly Scrambled Eggs, Balsamic Herbed Croutons and Roasted Bunashimeji Mushrooms.
serves 4

200g Asparagus, woody ends shaved
100g Bunashimeji Mushrooms or any wild mushrooms
4 Eggs, beaten
4 slices stale Bread, diced
1/2 stick of Butter
3 Tbsp Grated Parmesan
4 sprigs of Thyme
2 sprigs of Italian Parsley, chopped
4 whole Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Truffle Oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Grilled Asparagus
- Toss asparagus with a little EVOO, season. Grill until lightly charred.

Perfect Scrambled Eggs

- In a small saucepan, add eggs, butter, parmesan and pepper. Turn on gas at low heat. Put pan on stove and stir. Do not stop stirring. When eggs reach a paste-like consistency, turn off gas and keep stirring for another minute.

- Toss diced bread in EVOO, balsamic vinegar, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Spread evenly in a single layer on baking pan. Bake at 200C for 10-15mins.


- Toss mushrooms in EVOO, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Spread evenly in a single layer on baking pan. Bake at 200C for 15mins. Remove garlic and thyme sprigs.

Putting it altogether:

1. Bake mushrooms and croutons.
2. Grill asparagus. 5 mins.
3. Make scrambled eggs.
4. Remove mushrooms and croutons from oven and serve with asparagus and eggs.
5. Drizzle truffle oil and season if needed.

As Gordon Ramsay would say, "Absolutely f**kin' delicious."

Monday, June 2, 2008

10 Minute Chinese Hot and Sour Soup For The Soul

I broke the rules. The doctor clearly tells me to abstain from cooking for another week before my highly sensitive post-surgery corneas rebel and turn me blind. But I made delicious 10 minute Chinese hot and sour soup for the soul. Any sane person capable of such a feat has to be doing it for an extreme cause, such as cooking the Last Supper or cooking the victory dinner for Barack Obama. The last time I checked, my insatiable lust for whiskey was still present and my love for women was still heartfelt. Therefore I am sane and my brain is doing great. I made this for a cause beyond any reasoning or doubt. I made this to soothe the most important and distressed soul of all. Myself.

Why am I in distress? Because I can't cook, that's why. A Chinese hot and sour soup something like what you see above should be clear with swirls of beaten egg, however, mine looks like an egg bloodbath. Clear sign of distress. But what the hell, it was bloody delicious. A soup like that refreshes your taste buds and warmly flows down your throat then to your tummy. When it is in the tummy, you'd experience "Chi" like how the Kung Fu masters in the movies described it to be. Your blood will circulate exceptionally better and you feel healthy, after a while your weak appetite will revitalize. (The fiery heat and the acidity of the soup.)

Cool balls, it's the recipe!

Serves 4 normal people or 1 distressed person

100g Boiled Bamboo Shoots, julienned
100g Enoki Mushrooms
2 tsp Dark Soy
2 tsp Light Soy
2 tsp Sesame Oil
1.5 Tbsp Cornstarch, dissolved in 50ml of boiling water
2 Tbsp chopped Fresh Cilantro
1 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
600ml Chicken Stock, if using canned get reduced sodium
2 Tbspn Dried Chili flakes
2 tsp Ground White Pepper
100g Char Siew or any sweet glazed roasted pork loin, julienned
2 Eggs, beaten

- Bring chicken stock to a boil in a pot. Add dark and light soy, chili, pepper, bamboo and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 mins.

- Stir in cornstarch. Add vinegar.

- Ensure soup is bubbly boiling. Using a whisk or a spatula, briskly stir the soup in a circular motion until you see a whirlpool. When that happens, drip in beaten egg a little at a time. DO NOT STIR for the next 2-3mins until egg is fully cooked.

- Serve and garnish with sesame oil, Char Siew and loads of cilantro. Adjust seasoning with soy sauce and white pepper.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Evaluation Three, Messing with Meat

The stakes are steaks, meat fanciers are in the house and their support is crucial. I'm doing two dishes, one I bet my life on after months of refining, the other a menu tryout recipe that popped out of my mind a night before. It was tougher than I thought. Every inch of my lesser than average household kitchen was exploited and the atmosphere felt like that of a melting war zone. Sauces were spilled and fingers were burnt. But I like it so it's cool.


Fernandez, the seemingly amiable pinoy music teacher and Audrey, lady of prose. The meat whiners and diners.

Coming back to track my progress is Jon, deep thinker of food?

First Dish. Recipe from a dream:
Pork Shoulder Butt Steak with Burnt Butter Apple Sauce and Spicy Sweet Potato Mash
Fernandez: 8/10. "This is unique and the sauce is delicious. It is great to start with, but the experience goes downhill from there."
Audrey: 8/10. "Rainbow-phoric! This is so colorful. And that sweet potato mash is really good."
Jon: 8/10. "Lacking of focus. Nonetheless, it's a good combination!"

And the very refined,
Eye Fillet of Beef with Succotash X, Pomme Puree Y and Sauce Espagnole

Fernandez: 8.5/10. "If this is a well-marbled Kobe, it would be a 10. Otherwise, this is perfect."
Audrey: 9.5/10. "Quite perfect."
Jon: 9.5/10. "So good... Keep it up but don't get complacent, bitch."

You please the musicians and the musicians politely please you. Please, no puns.

I just did eye surgery and doc tells me to abstain from cooking for a week or two. Sorry if this is a rush, my eyes need rest. See you soon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Steak, Eggs and a Tomato Nightmare

I have come to realize that cooking Italian every time is as boring as committing to a lifetime of oneitis. Same applies when any particular cuisine is repeatedly cooked for a long time. In fact, I am currently traumatized by tomatoes. Everything about it is scary, from the color to the taste to that uncanny looking vine. Time out, Italian cuisine.

When I can't sleep at night, it is usually because of two things. One of them is when a picture of 10 feet giant tomatoes crushing my hometown is lingering in my crazy little head. The other is when the food craving like that of a bulimic supermodel erupts so violently that I become slightly catatonic.

On a particular sleepless night during a military mission, the pathetic and overly abused kid that is my little stomach cries out loud for steak and eggs. "So why won't you give it to me? A little plate will do just a little of that will be just fine damn it," cries the stupid kid. But what that angry imbecile didn't know was that I am somewhere in the middle of a heavily forested jungle trying to protect my life by fending off commando-like mosquitoes and stinging spiders. It leaves me no choice but to bitch slap the kid and have it make do with the disgusting field rations.

Mission ends, I finally get to go home, for three consecutive days it was steak and eggs. On the first day of this insanity, I made good old all-American steak and eggs, pan seared sirloin with sunny side ups. Not bad, but the flavors were dead raw. So on the second day, I went eccentric, I fried chinese long beans and shiitakes with flank steak marinated in oyster sauce, garlic, pepper and dark soy. On top is poached egg drizzled with pan jus. Good flavors, but my greedy innate hunger for perfection demoralizes me. It says it's good but not mind blowing.

So behold. My perfected recipe for steak and eggs. Ponzu honey glazed skirt steak on asparagus and bean salad with poached egg, shaved daikon and sweet sherry vinaigrette, drizzled with truffled oil. It sounds motley crazy but what do you know, it totally satisfies my shit. Ponzu and truffle unites with a secret ingredient.
Maybe my expectations won't meet yours. But for what it's worth, this plate of my favorite kind of steak and eggs will go at SGD$12. Wait for my Trattoria.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Evaluation Two, Home-style Italian

Now that things are gradually getting back in shape, I have found time on a Friday evening to keep my tasting dinners going. That is with the help of two of my long time, almost blood related(ok, not really) and obviously food-loving friends.

Van and Vig

Van is the ex-navy lady specialist who didn't hesitate to give a full forced, body battering slap to my sorry ass when I once refused to leave a club because I had too much to drink. Also, she has a secret recipe for a sambal paste that is potent enough to raise the dead and it is something I strongly believe everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. Lawfully inseparable to her is Vig, my partner in crime during the days working at a nightclub, mocking losers and getting stupidly delirious together when the booze is free. Vig is heavily traumatized by the pasta in Singapore, which is totally understandable, and therefore he won't be commenting on any of the pasta dishes.

They are testing three rustic home-style dishes, the very basics of the Italian cuisine, to see if my months of trial and errors has come to any good.


This is my take on a Pomodoro Bruschetta. I used a softer bread and an additional element to the tomato marinate. Topped with rocket leaves and shaved pecorino.

Van: 9/10. "Deliciously fresh. I'm not big with raw vegetables but this is really good. Although I must say I'd still prefer the crunchy type of bread."
Vig: 8/10. "This is a must have starter for any Italian restaurant, but I wished the portions were smaller. Keep the bread soft, it works."


Spaghetti Meatball. I screwed up one this one when I left the pasta too long to cook and it became a little under al dente. I was quite reluctant to serve it out but they insisted so here are the comments anyway.

Van: 8/10. "This meatball is satisfyingly light! Ones outside are too heavy."
Vig did not have any pasta, ate all the meatballs and the extra ones instead.

Adapted from Chef John's recipe at, this is the famous Chicken Parmesan. I made this because I was craving for some fried chicken but I got too full at the end to enjoy.

Van: 8/10 "Nice sauce. I'm happy with this."
Vig: 7/10 "CHEESY CHICKEN DELIGHT, now where's the beer?"

If you think you've a good palate and got what it takes to give a good critique, contact me at the side bar on the left and we might arrange something. See ya soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What happens if chicken soup don't work anymore?

I'm down with a nasty cold again and nothing makes me feel better like piping hot and sour Italian stew down my tummy. My blurry mind will then rejuvenate and my frigid appetite will revitalize. A feeling like this can only be subtly compared to that of being captivated in the midst of a three second orgasm or receiving a two minute blow job.

A good stew when I am sick is like a small miracle, some like good old chicken soup, but it comes to a point when you grow tired of that shit because you have been subconsciously having it in your sauces, risotto, pasta, etc all the time. Try the stew, you will regret nothing. Maybe it's just me but I think a stew gets ten times better when you can scoop up tiny little bits of starch(rice, couscous, risoni, etc.) to munch on. I know, I'm being a big baby but I can bet you a bunch of people out there will secretly agree with me behind their computer screens. Thanks, I know I'm right.

The following stew is very good for you.

Sicilian Calamari Stew with Okra and Olio Santa
serves 2

200g Calamari, cleaned and sliced
6 Medium Okras, top removed, sliced on bias
400g Canned Diced Tomatoes
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp Capers
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 cup Couscous, Rice or Risoni
Scallions for garnish
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Olio Santo or Chili Oil

- In a medium saucepan, saute garlic and Okras with a touch of EVOO until garlic turns golden brown. Season.
- Add tomatoes, capers, oregano and bring to boil. Simmer 10 mins.
- Add couscous and calamari. Simmer further 10 mins.
- Season and serve with Olio Santo and Scallions. Great with bread.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Trattoria Project Revamps!

I hope you like the new design. Because I do. Check back for more high quality posts later this week. Cheers :)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

This is how breakfast-in-bed should look like.

It should also be messy and soul satisfying. It should make her hungry for some more. Breakfast-in-bed must be done fast. Don't have her waiting too long. Because when she comes to the kitchen it's breakfast-in-bed no more! Do it in ten minutes, love is in the air chemistry is smooth, you hit her buttons right, your competency sparkles her eyes, she gets to work on time. Fifteen minutes, you're trying she apprehends, you receive her benefit of doubt. Sixty minutes, you're trying too hard, game over, she thinks she slept with a loser who had never done breakfast-in-bed before but you got laid so you win anyhow.

Scrambled eggs and sausages maybe a good bet, but it is cliche. How about toast and butter? It shows how boring you are. Express fast food delivery? Great but transfer the food to the plates fast and don't make a sound, open the door before delivery guy hits the doorbell, fry some water in your pan to sound like you're busy. Too much trouble. Sod it, tell her you can't cook and it's not a big deal. It is not a big deal. Unless you're wanting to impress to go further. Then this is what you could do:

Breakfast in Bed - 8-10mins

Ingredients - 1 Egg, bunch of Salad Leaves(I used rockets, what's new), Fresh Mushrooms(Shittake in picture), 4 Bacon Strips, 2 slices of Bread, EVOO, Salt & Pepper.
Optional: Truffle Oil, Thyme Leaves.

0-30 secs: Get pan hot. Get your ingredients ready.
30secs-1min: Sear bacon strips in hot pan. Put bread in toaster.
1-4mins: Get a separate pan hot, add a touch of oil and fry an egg. Season egg. Take it out when it's cooked, set aside. Flip bacon when underside turns crispy brown. Remove bread from toaster and spread thinly with butter if preferred.
4-6mins: Using remaining oil from the pan you cooked the egg, saute mushrooms with a whole crushed clove of garlic and with thyme leaves. Saute for about 1 min on high heat, season and set aside discarding the garlic. Remove bacon(it should be crispy by now) and set aside on paper towels.
6-10mins: Put toast on the middle of a plate. Lay egg on top. Scatter with salad leaves, mushrooms and bacon. Drizzle with truffle oil. Good to go.

If this is too difficult, then wait for my upcoming quickie posts for more super fast recipes.

Friday, April 25, 2008

This is my day


The KaoHsiung trip is history. I came back together with nasty food experiences and heightened blood sugar levels. It's a wonder the entire country isn't diabetic because of the dominating presence of sugar in nearly every meal they eat. Even the Sashimi platter I had was drizzled with some honey soy, and it was also utterly disgusting. The beef Cappaccio had an appalling sweet vinaigrette and a packet of fries was seasoned with sugar. It's enough to make any pastry chef quit their job.

And if that's bad enough, they've got an unbelievably persistent bunch of people too. When I was strolling down the food department in a shopping district, I felt like I got stuck in some stock market instead. Food sellers from all corners will consistently insist that you sample their most amazing product. If you walk away, they'll go great lengths to make sure their voices would be loud enough to reach your ears. And when you finally decide to sample their product and not buy it because it tastes like shit, they'll give a look on the face like you had just spent their entire life savings on visor hats and fancy stickers and like you had just castrated their favorite pet.

I don't know about you, but nothing starts my day like a plate of good pasta. Especially when my palates are heavily traumatized by shitty food. Good pasta doesn't mean jarred Prego sauce with minced pork and canned mushrooms. Good pasta means a burst of mind blowing flavors with a good hint of wheat in the mouth. It's quite sad actually, most Singaporeans perceive pasta as TV dinner or fast food because good pastas are always outrageously priced. (at least SGD$10 for a decent aglio olio - pasta, garlic and olive oil. And no, not the one from Pasta Mania.) No one pays for something that already has a bad stigma.

Quite recently, I stumbled across one of the most amazing Italian cookbooks I've ever seen in a book store. I know I'm a little late but it's the Babbo cookbook by Mario Batali. There was only one left on the shelf and on it is a price tag that would instantly induce a terrible itch to the back of anyone's head upon sight. $82.92. Being the impulsive brat that I am, I bought it immediately because I thought that such books are hard to come by.

I tried the Pasta Amatriciana recipe two times today, one straight from the book the other with a little tweaking. I won't tell you which is better because I'm not shameless. For the record, both were bursting with flavors and are absolutely delicious so try the recipe if you haven't already know what good pasta tastes like. But due to copyright laws I'll show you my version of the recipe.

Spaghettoni All'Amatriciana
adapted from the Babbo cookbook
Serves 4

200g Pancetta or Good Quality Bacon, sliced
3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 Red Onion, diced
1.5 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1.5 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
400g Spaghettoni Pasta
a handful Italian Parsley, chopped
2 tsp Light Cream or Creme Faiche
Fleur de Sel
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

1. Boil water with salt in a pot.

2. Render bacon fat in saute pan until most of the fat is out. Remove bacon and set aside on paper towels. Reserve fat in pan.

3. Saute onions in bacon fat until translucent. Add garlic, reserved bacon and red pepper, saute until garlic turns lightly brown.

4. Season, add tomato sauce and simmer.

5. Cook pasta according to packet instructions in boiling salted water until al dente. Add to simmering sauce.

6. Add parsley and toss pasta. Serve.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Fit for the King ..or the Bin?

Grilled Chicken with Capers on Wilted Spinach and Citrus Vinaigrette

Flank Steak, Sun Dried Tomato and Piman Pepper Sandwich

These are my lab test versions of the Chicken Piccata and Skirt Steak Sandwich respectively. I know, I must be a genius right? No, you're not right. Looks are deceiving. One of them is perfectly fit for the bin. Which is it? Can you differentiate the shit from the sublime? Think about it.

If you thought the steak sandwich was the flop and the chicken was fit for a king, then the king must be eating from his bin. That lovely acidic sauce from a Chicken Piccata seems to only go well when the chicken is crumbed and fried. Having the lemony acid on a grilled chicken was the culinary equivalent to a plate pasta with commercial strawberry sauce. I thought I'd refined the Chicken Piccata, but nothing went right. Every remote trace of deliciousness from the Piccata have vanquished after a crashing failure and can't be located because they got stranded somewhere far away on a mysterious island. A Chicken Fiasco.

Steak sandwich, orgasmic. The Japanese Piman peppers were experimented in hopes that its delicate and sweet flavor would contrast with the grainy and bold texture of the flank steak. It worked. And with the slight tartness from the sun dried tomato, it turns out to be better than I had expected it. It will probably be on the menu so I can't show you the recipe.

See you in a month.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Insalata Toscana

A handful of wild rockets. Herb-poached Italian potatoes. Freshly cut Roma tomatoes. Salted capers and shallots. Drizzle of red wine vinaigrette and Tuscan fruity olive oil. Fleur de Sel and freshly cracked black peppercorns. Very delicious indeed.

There is nothing amazing about the Italian cuisine without the simple, unpretentious and ass-kicking peasant style cooking. If you haven't already know, that is exactly what the Trattoria Project is all about.

Before I venture out for another awe-inspiring month in Taiwan, I made it a point to comfort my palates with as much Italian food as I can. That being said, I hope you'd find Insalata Toscana as pleasurable and comforting as it is to me.

Insalata Toscana
serves 4

350g slab of Roast Beef, diced
4 medium Potatoes, diced
3 large Sage leaves
3 medium Roma tomatoes, diced
3 small Shallots, chopped
1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 Tbsp Salted Capers
Handful of Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
Handful of Rockets
Fleur de Sel
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Boil potatoes in salted boiling water, sage leaves and some EVOO until al dente. Drain and set aside. Whisk EVOO, vinegar, crushed pepper, fleur de sel and pepper. Combine everything, toss and season. Enjoy.

Monday, March 31, 2008

About Time.

Out with the old.
And say hello to the new sexy.

Evaluation One

After two years of planning and eight months of intensive blabbering, kitchen failures and broken plates, my dream of having a Trattoria of great and inexpensive food is finally becoming a reality. Before that happens, I must put my food menu to the test. Every week, I will invite human guinea pigs to evaluate my menu items. If it's good, they get wet and so will I. If it isn't they die and I've got nothing to lose.
Names of the menu dishes have been drastically simplified. Recipes won't be shown. Pictures won't be shown for this one because I totally forgot to take them but they will be in the future, otherwise posts like these will be completely redundant. Don't take badly or start to hate me, it's only business. :)

Jon. The epitome of the new age dreamer. The aspiring musician, teacher, designer and publicist.

The adhesively inseparable smiley couple. Ashton and Caroline.

The human guinea pigs have two dishes to evaluate.

First dish: Purple's Veal Saltimbocca

Jon: 8/10. "Graced on the greens and savored a perfect blend of veal and cured ham." "Better rare."
I think he's being overly rhetorical so I didn't get what he was trying to tell me. But I believe it's something he'd definitely pay for.

: 8/10. "More veal please, I don't eat greens." "It needs to be hotter."
Ashton: 8.5/10. "I wouldn't mind not having the veal but I'd definitely mind if there isn't that salad." "Slightly too salty."
I'm sure you get the adhesively inseparable part now.

Second dish: Purple's Prawn Pasta with ******* Pesto

: 8.5/10. "Smooth." "Wine, too much."
Ashton: 9/10. "That tomato is really good." "A little too oily."
Caroline: 9/10. "Good ah." "Bigger prawns next time."

If you've a good palate and got what it takes to give a good critique, contact me at

Friday, March 28, 2008


Lest you worry. The Trattoria Project is still alive and kicking like sextuplets in an expecting mother. Until June, I will be stuck with a huge inevitable load of obligatory traveling. Free time have certainly not been my best friend, so don't expect any frequent updates soon.

Thailand is a pretty fun place to go, I'm sure everyone will agree. Unfortunately, I am there strictly for business. But thank god we managed to make it to the Floating Market of Thailand.


As you can see, the floating market is quite like the wall street of food brokers, spice traders and hat sellers. The 40 degree celsius weather and the perpetual clatter instantly induces a hell-raising headache, it can make you feel really uncomfortable. But the headache immediately dissipates when you bite into a battered plantain fritter or slurp down a bowl of steaming offal noodles. Both absolutely delicious but it also comes with stomach flu and diarrhea.

There are no pictures because I brought my camera without the memory card. Sorry.

If you've never been there and if you have plans to go there soon, here's an advice: don't take the boat, walk. You'd find out why.

However amazing the food was, after a month of deprivation, I was desperate for some Cucina Italia. Because it only takes about 10 mins and because it is also unbelievably delicious, I skipped the duty free and rushed home from the airport only to make some Pork Vino Bianco.

Tagliata di Maiale Al Vino Bianco
serves 2


2 Pork Chops, boned
2 Tbsp Plain Flour
1/4 cup Chicken Stock
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 sprig Rosemary, chopped
50g Butter
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Season chops with salt and pepper. Coat evenly with flour.

Brown chops in pan over medium heat with a little EVOO and half the butter.

Remove chops and set aside to rest. Drain grease from pan and deglaze with white wine, chicken stock and rosemary. Stir in rest of butter.

Serve chops on plate drizzle with deglaze. I added some poached asparagus and shallots with a white wine dressing, feel free.