Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Happy Housewarming! A gift of edible treats...

My best friend, K, held an intimate dinner for eight at at her brand new apartment, both as housewarming and also as a little birthday celebration. Now, I had already given her a birthday gift (lots of fabulous girly stuff!), but I wanted to get her something special to mark her and her daughter's (my godchild) move to their own place. K can easily cook for others (she made me a delicious breakfast) but doesn't really enjoy cooking for herself. What better gift then her own little stock of foodie presents, hand made with love and care by her best friend? Well, that's what I thought :-)

This is what I planned for my bunch of foodie treats:
- Roasted Peppers with Garlic
- Pear Cinnamon Jam
- Nutella Cupcakes
- Osso Buco

K loves roasted peppers. We have enjoyed this a number of times in Spanish restaurants around the city, so I thought of making her a bottle, to use as she pleased, anytime she got a hankering. It's pretty simple to make: Just roast some red peppers (capsicum) in the oven (I used around 1.8 kilos of peppers). When nice and soft, with their skin blistering and black in some places, remove from oven and peel (they're hot, careful). Slice into slivers of preferred thickness. Place in a bowl and mix in 3 tablespoons olive oil (I just eyeball this, put more, or less, as you see fit) and around 2 teaspoons crushed/minced garlic (again, adust this to your garlic-love quotient). Dont' they look luscious and fiery-red?

They taste pretty amazing too...these ones turned out to be incredibly sweet and just a tad garlic-y. Perfect. Now you can place them in jars which you may sterilize using your preferred sterilization method. I got 2 jars worth, with a little extra. So I had some leftover for myself...hooray! This goes great with a myriad of things, and complements so many dishes, that I cannot even begin to list them down. Here is K's bottle of peppers...

The next thing I wanted to make was jam. I had never made jam before (although my dad does, and his mango jam is too die for) but this seemed like the very thing that should be included in a housewarming bag of treats. I found the perfect recipe for me from Clotilde's wonderful Chocolate and Zucchini (the second blog I ever read and thus contributed greatly to sparking my interest in food blogs, along with Market Manila, my first ever blog discovery). I pretty much followed Clotilde's instructions to the letter, except I omitted the cacao nibs (as tempting as they sound, I am unable to find them here) and stuck a cinnamon stick in while cooking. Look at it...doesn't the mixture look "angry"?

Some observations from a first-time jam maker: I was shocked at the amount of liquid that was rendered. Whoa! Also, I kept simmering and simmering but it all seemed too runny. I went back and forth from the freezer to the stove top, ferrying the little frozen plate to check if my jam was set. It took quite a long time. When the droplet of jam finally seemed to hold itself on the frozen plate I said, "That's it, this is done, my neck hurts!" I was pleasantly surprised when everything magically fell into place and the jam set to a consistency of very viscous honey.

I was quite pleased with my first try at jam making. I think the cinnamon complemented, but did not overpower, the pears' taste. The jam was sweet and sticky and delicious. I also kept a bottle for myself (heehee) and have had it with my yogurt, as well as with cheese on yummy!

I also wanted to add a baked goody to the loot...enter Nutella Cupcakes! I have made this before with much success so I decided that an encore was in order, especially in the name of gift-giving! I'm not the only one who loves them either. Since this was a special occasion, I decided that it was only proper that the cupcakes have special outfits...check out the cute cupcake liners! (For those of you in Manila, I got them at the newly re-done SM across from Park Square in Makati. Check out their kitchen and baking stuff...a discovery!)

Last, but definitely not least, I needed something hearty to tie everything together and give my gift package some depth. Something comforting and savory. Something which K loves more than any other food item that comes out of my house. My mom's Osso Buco. This was my first attempt at my mom's signature dish so I was a little nervous. This isn't Osso Buco is the true sense of the dish because we use beef instead of veal. Veal is not as available here as it is elsewhere, and it's very expensive. Happily, my attempt turned out better than I expected (after much tweaking and mother is in New York right now, on her annual vacation from us, and was not available for consultation). I ladled the Osso Buco into a huge glass jar I bought especially for this purpose.

I'll be posting the recipe to follow as it is a bit more "involved". The picture's not too great and doesn't quite do it justice...

The dinner was tremendous fun, the kind you get when you have a group that just gels terrifically, imbibes good food and wine, shares endless bouts of roaring laughter, and has roller-coaster-ride conversations that go waaay into the night...

As for my gifts, K loved them, as she kept telling me days after! I see more food-as-gifts in my future?


angelika said...

Hi there, what a lovely post ! I am also absolutly keen on "peperonate" as they are called in Italy, I also prepare quite a lot of them in fall season when prices are down more or less, and I usually freeze them in little packages so I can have them freshly marinated during winter time. I even use them for one of my special (Piemontese) signature dishes - will post soon. The pear jam does sound good ! The nutella cupcakes are on my to-do-list, and I am looking forward to your beef ossobuco recipe - just as Sweetnicks does ;-) ! I adore the idea of giving food presents ! Kind regards from angelika

Paz said...

This all looks great! What wonderful gift ideas!

I've never thought of making food gifts for others, but you've inspired me to do it.

Congrats on making the jam and osso buco successfully. The osso buco is one of my favorites and I recently learned how to make it.

I trust your mom is having a great time in NYC. The weather has been really good this past week.


P.S. I like the cupcake liners!

violet said...

oh i love that! my birthday's coming soon! hint hint wink wink! ;)

seriously though, are those the nutella cupcakes?! arent they wonderful?

im going to make a big old batch of roasted red peppers before summers out and i cant use the gas grill without getting chilly. and that pear jam... words cant even describe.

Mona said...

Wow, that's inspiring. I should show this to 7 of my closest friends and say LET'S DO IT!!
The jam looked divine, and what an interesting combo pear and cinnamon. I can honestly say I've never had pear jam before. I must be missing out!

Maricel said...

Just a word of caution on the roasted pepper and garlic....ingat lang sa botulism as it has no acid ingredient. I also read in one of the pinoyfood egroup posts that garlic is a magnet for the botulism bacteria

ChichaJo said...

Hi Angelika! Thanks for your kind words! Can't wait to hear your Piemontese dish recipes with the "peperonate"...something else to use these peppers with! Will be posting the Osso Buco recipe next :-)

Hi Paz! Thanks so much! I had fun making these food-gifts, and they come out very personalized too. My mom's having a blast in NYC and hopefully bringing back some foodie presents for me :-)

Hi Violet! Yes, those are the very same Nutella cupcakes...they are great! There's a link somewhere in there to your post on them :-) Hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Thanks Mona! The pear jam is yummy...and Clotilde has other great jam recipes (check out her Bliss in a Jar section) :-)

Hi Maricel! Thanks for the heads up...I actually read that about garlic also. The peppers are practically gone already though. Thanks for dropping by :-)

Joe said...

What wonderful food gifts! Your recipient is so lucky!

Jeff said...

I concur with everyone's comments, and also have to say that first picture of the candle & flowers and dish is stunning! I love it!

deborah said...

wow, what a wonderful bounty of gifts!

I would love to hear more about your jam making exercise. I've been doing some heavy duty research on making the jam as well as sterilising the bottles etc

Pille said...

Wow, this sounds impressive, esp as food gifts are my favourite kind of gifts recently:) I like the look of the roasted peppers (I love them in salads), the jam sounds yummy and the Nutella cupcakes have been so popular in the blogosphere so I feel "peer-pressured" to make them soon as well:)
Looking very much forward to your osso buco recipe!!!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Joe! Thanks for your nice comments! :-)

Thanks Jeff! I'm so glad you like the picture...I try my best on my little digital cam :-)

Hi Saffron! With regards to sterilising the bottles, I read that you can just boil them for a while and then dry them upside-down on a clean towel...I don't have any fancy bottle sterilizing contraption, nor do I have "official" jam jars. However, I guess I also have to mention that I am not bottling these jams for "the winter" (no such thing here) so these will be consumed immediately :-) Also, I have no access to pectin, preserving sugar, jam-making-sugar, or anything like I have to use regular sugar. I am just at the start of my jam making experiences so I'd be happy for any of the tips you have picked up in your research too!

Thanks Pille! These roasted peppers go really well with so many things...I even like them in my tuna sandwiches :-)

dexiejane said...

you're such a wonderful friend. coincidentally I've been thinking about making some jams. i just need to get my behind going..LOL.

T said...

I want to come to breakfast at your house! Ive been meaning to try both the nutella muffins and the pear jam- thanks for posting about your experiences with those recipes. Now I have even more reason to try them myself :-)

shuna fish lydon said...

I like that whenever we photograph jam or marmalade we know that it will look most lovely on a windowsill with natural light passing through it.

Gia-Gina said...

Hi Joey, Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your comments also. In the summer, Italy porduces a tons of peppers and I have been roasting them every week since July. Yours look grand, we gobble them all up usually so there is not much to jar.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Dexie! Thanks a lot! I really enjoyed the jam making even if it seemed a little mysterious and daunting...but nothing beats eating your own jam with your breakfast :-)

Hi Tanvi! My house is open for breakfast all year round, haha! :-) Glad you liked the posts!

Hi Shuna Fish Lydon! It definitely likes to be photographed at its most flattering moments :-) Thanks for dropping by!

Hi Gia-gina! That sounds wonderful...I know what you mean though, I put them in jars but they were gone in 3 servings!

Lori said...

Your friend K, is lucky to have a foodie friend like you. Good job on all your foodie gifts! The photos are awesome.

ChichaJo said...

Thanks so much Lori! What a compliment coming from someone who always has such great pictures :-)

stef said...

joey, that's one lucky friend you've got there! i for one would have been ecstatic with just the roasted peppers. and you had osso buco to boot. oh my.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Stef! I love foodie gifts! And I'm pretty lucky too...K's a great friend :)