Sunday, November 18, 2007

Basil and seafoods (updated)

I really love cooking and I’d say my median skills are results of observation, practice, experimentation and exploration. Recently, I discovered how the herb basil contributes to the aroma and savour of seafoods. Perfect is how my husband describes it.

I used to know and use only the dried basil leaves which are also part of the bottle of “Italian spices” I use mostly for pasta preparation. Then I figured that the taste I didn’t like much from fried chicken and squid tentacles sold in the night markets is actually fresh basil leaves added just few seconds before the goods are lifted up from the boiling oil for dripping. It is also the same herb usually added in the viands served in my workplace’s canteen.

One time, we had dinner in our friend’s place and she served us clams filled with herbs. From the smell of it, I told her that was the scent I avoid in foods but she told me it goes well with the clams. I really didn’t have to eat the leaves because the main purpose of having it added in the viand is just to make it smell even better - in other words, the basil leaves were the dish's seasoning. Setting aside the herbs, I spooned only the sauce and the clams and to my surprise, it tasted oh so good.

From there, I searched from the internet facts about basil leaves and realized that pesto is actually made from it, with the addition of pine nuts and olive oil. That made me even more excited leading me to looking for articles on how to make pesto. I found several writings about it which basically say the same thing but presented in different ways. Anyhow, I planned to make pesto by myself but didn’t have the food processor and realized our blender is too small to make a desirable amount. So until now, I still didn’t give it a try.

On the other hand, when I had the chance to prepare various seafood recipes after that “fishing” experience in Taoyuan, I bought a bag of fresh basil leaves and had them as one of the main ingredients in my cooking.

The first dish I cooked was a replica of the clams my friend prepared. The recipe is very simple – all I needed were chopped onions, pressed garlic cloves, small amount of oil, oyster sauce, clams and half-bag of the basil leaves. I sauted the first 2 ingredients, added the clams and oyster sauce and let it boil. Since the clams were soaked in water, there’s no need to add water. I covered the pan and let it boil for few minutes with the clam shells popping out here and there. When the sound lessened, I opened the pan and noting that most of the shells are opened, I added the basil leaves and covered the pan again and left it boiling for another few minutes. My allotted time is not really measured as I am used to estimations.

The second dish I cooked with basil leaves consisted of the crab legs as the main ingredient along with the same items listed earlier but this time, I also had an egg and flour in my preparation table. For ease of eating, I asked hubby to crash the shells with the “pounding” metal before cooking. That time, what I had in mind is the dish that we usually order in a seafood restaurant we visit on an occasional basis. It’s actually quite expensive so I thought of imitating it. I guess I was lucky to get it right on my first try. The crab legs were boiled separately first, a dash of salt to taste is added. After boiling, I set separated the crab legs from the broth and set aside the latter. I took another pan and sauted the onions and garlic on a small amount of oil (mine was olivenol oil) then added the crab meat. After several toss and turns, I added the oyster sauce and the broth and left it to boil while I beat the egg and mixed the flour with a small amount of water. I actually used flour because I didn’t have corn starch in my kitchen cabinet. The purpose of adding it anyway is to make the mixture a little sticky. Now when the boiling mixture matched my taste, I added the egg and mixed flour and stirred what’s on the pan. Then I added the basil leaves, covered the pan and let it simmer for few minutes. The scent of the herbs filled our small kitchen area and extended to the living room and bedroom which made us hungry right away. Good thing the rice is already cooked so after allowing the dish to simmer, it was time to get the serving bowl and lay the dish on the table. We set aside Jade’s porridge and decided to serve her plain rice with the crab meat either from mommy or daddy’s plate. Of course, compliments in forms of “wows” and “sarap” followed while we were feasting on this newly discovered viand recipe. I ate bare handed which made it even better for me to enjoy the meal.

I will still have to work on the pesto but the next thing I have know is where to find the pine nuts.


Bill Bilig said...

Appay adda basil nga mula idiay ili tayo? Or is it mostly imported. I love reading posts like this para kahit paaano ay matuto akong magluto. I can't cook at all (except instant noodles, rice, and eggs)and I admire people who can cook :-)

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday I watched Wolfgang Puck make clams with basil. Almost like the dish you cooked. He just added fettucini and white wine on it.

Looking at your dishes made me hungry :P

jane said...

bill, i think basil is also planted in our place.articles say they are grown in tropical areas. i bumped into this file in an attempt to search where basil plants are grown in the philippines.
The document tells about a diversification demo done in Tuba and basil is one of the crops included. and one interesting thing about basil BTW is that it can be used as insect repellant. Maybe they are also scattered in the mountains but we just don't know they are the so called basil herbs, LOL.
So have you learned much from reading cooking or culinary posts? :)

Hei Sha, I am assuming your the "anonymous" here. hmmnn, thanks for mentioning the dish you've seen - made me consider adding that fettuccini some time, hihihi.

Bill Bilig said...

Thanks for the additional info. As you said baka we have it in our place but don't know that its called basil.

Yup learning cooking things from this blog, I will refer to it for tips and recipes when someone asks me to cook :-)