Baguio on Your Plate

Baguio City is the Philippines’ summer capital. It is 1500 meters above sea level, and 250 kilometers north of Manila. Citydwellers rush to its  cool breeze and sweater weather during the scorching summer months. Thanks to its subtropical highland climate, it is a bounty of fruits and vegetables! It is salad season all year round! I can imagine all that produce at arms’ length. It would be a joy to cook with all those fresh herbs, fruits and veggies.

My family just came back from a short holiday from Baguio, while I was almost deep fried in the summer sun here in Manila. But the goodies they brought back home for me was enough for me to forget they left me in the frying pan! Haha

To my delight, these two Baguio staples greeted me on the breakfast table — Good Shepherd Ube Jam and fresh La Trinidad strawberries.

UbeJamBerry

Ube, or purple yam, is a rootcrop, used in Filipino cuisine, mostly for desserts. Ube jam or halaya is what you see in the bottle. And it is an open secret that no one does ube jam better than the sisters at the Good Shepherd convent in Baguio City. Recently, the Good Shepherd congregation put up a complex in Tagaytay. They also offer some of the goods that their convent in Baguio offers. I was happy to find an outlet nearer in Manila. I don’t know about you, but the Baguio ube jam just tastes so much better.

It is hard to explain to first timers how a rootcrop similar to taro can make these delectable sweet treats, cakes, ice cream, candies, you name it!! On my trips to Japan, I could see Japanese tourists handcarry boxes of ube ice cream back to their homeland. That didn’t make sense to me either. Just friggin’ try it, you won’t regret it.

Now, strawberries…

To some, strawberries aren’t much of a big deal. But for a Manila girl who’s tasted too many strawberry desserts using jams or preservatives? IT IS A BIG DEAL.

So imagine my amusement seeing a basket or two of freshly picked strawberries. And in the heat of the moment, what did I first whip up? Yeahhh, Strawberry Lemonade.

Dish out that blender and whip up a strawberry puree. With that, mix in the juice of fresh lemons, simple syrup and ice cold water. Pour it into a mason jar for maximum pretty points. Garnish with ice cubes, strawberry and lemon slices. Brain freeze with a strawberry high!

StrawberryLemonadeSmallWM.jpg

This got me all inspired.. Now I looked onto to the herbs and vegetables. Button mushrooms, leeks, tarragon, lettuce, jicama.. The voice in my head was my dad’s. He said to me, I want a clean tasting lunch. And when this is the refrain, I turn to pasta.

Lucky me, when I typed, mushroom, leeks, tarragon, pasta, the vision of Gordon Ramsay appears. All I needed to do was to follow this video.

For the recipe, I got it from Kitchenblog.com:

Mushroom and Leek Pasta

Credit: Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking by Gordon Ramsay

Ingredients:

Olive oil

8 cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

1 leek, trimmed, quartered and sliced

1 cup chicken stock

4-6 lasagne sheets, fresh or dried (These worked really well- I just boiled them until tender, about 4 minutes. They’re intended as a no-boil pasta, but when boiled, they taste more like fresh pasta than the long thick lasagna noodles with rippled edges.)

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons roughly chopped tarragon leaves

For the Garlic Bruschette

2 slices ciabatta bread

Olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and halved

Directions:

  • Heat a large frying pan and add a dash of oil. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and start to saute them, adding the garlic after 2 minutes and the leek a minute later. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the leek is soft and the mushrooms are colored on the outside Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • Add the stock and boil for 5 minutes until reduced by half.
  • Meanwhile, cook the lasagne sheets in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 4 minutes or until just al dente.
  • While the lasagne is cooking, add the cream to the frying pan and simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce a little.
  • When the lasagne sheets are cooked, drain and add to the pan with the sauce, stirring until well coated. Turn off the heat, add the tarragon leaves, and allow to sit while the bread toasts.
  • To prepare the bruschette: Preheat a grill pan or the broiler. Rub the slives of ciabatta with olive oil and the cut side of the garlic clove and toast for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • To serve, spoon the lasagne and mushroom mixture onto serving plates, layering them up attractively. Serve the toasted bruschette slices on the side.

It was an interesting recipe since I have not used lasagna noodles, except for, well… lasagna. Something new to try, and it was yummy! The garlic bruschette on ciabatta was a great twist. Dad got his clean tasting lunch. It tasted luscious, thanks to the cream but felt healthy!

MushroomTarragon_RamseyWMSmall

Hey wait, I’m not done yet! What is lunch without dessert?

With Good Shepherd ube jam, this won’t need much work. Just a little jazzin’ up…

A scoop of Fruits in Ice Macapuno Ice Cream (which, by the way, is the best there is out there!). Double up on that purple wonder called ube jam, and a peanut brittle tuile (also fresh from Baguio).

MacapunoIceUbeBrittleSmallWM

BOOM.

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