DINNERS at home in my daughter’s kitchen in Sunnyside, Queens is always a delightful experience. Patricia and her Romanian husband George are both good cooks. Their respective jobs expose them only to the finest kitchens in the restaurant industry in New York City, with Patricia working for celebrity chef Daniel Boulud.
Food shopping is such an exciting experience here in New York. Wholesalers like Costco and neighborhood supermarkets are food shoppers’ paradise with unbelievably eye-popping international food choices especially meats, seafood, dairy products and farm fresh vegetables and fruits. The key to great cooking is easy access to the freshest ingredients in season.
Patricia was craving for Fresh Lumpia. A labor-intensive dish, we agreed to share the preparation — I cooked the filling and Patricia made the wrappers. Thanks to Chef Myrna Segismundo who gifted Patricia with the book “Kulinarya,” a guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, when she dined at the Daniel Boulud Bistro Moderne where Patricia works. We lifted the recipe for the lumpia wrapper from the cookbook, which was excellent!
There was no heart of palm (ubod) available so we decided to do a simple vegetable filling using green beans, cabbage, carrots and Chinese parsley (kinchay) with pork, shrimp and firm tofu. I had to single-handedly do the mise en place, which involves cutting all the vegetables into julienne strips that took at least an hour.
The “paalat” or the brown lumpia sauce was cooked after I wrapped the filling into the prepared wrappers. Meanwhile, Patricia took over the dishes, the Salmon en Papillote and the Moules Frites (Mussels and Fries).
En Papillote or cooking in a packet involved wrapping food in parchment paper pockets. Patricia laid the fresh salmon fillets with thin lemon slices and dill leaves with a dash of salt and pepper on parchment paper, sealed it and baked for at least 30 minutes in 300 degrees F. The Moules Frites is a popular French dish that originated from Belgium.
It is sometimes considered as the national dish of Belgium. We bought a big pack of mussels from Costco. Patricia loves this dish and cooks them to perfection with caramelized onions, white wine, saffron and finishes it with thick cream. This is traditionally eaten with fried potatoes, dipped into the delicious creamy mussel juice.
The mussels are so sweet and bursting with freshness. A chilled bottle of Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses, a Grenache-cinsault-syrah pink rosé from Languedoc, France washed down all the goodness of the salmon, mussels and of course, the fresh lumpia with paalat sauce sprinkled with crushed peanuts. The rosé is a wine that celebrates Art de Vivre and the Mediterranean lifestyle. A young student of the Ecole Boulle designed the very pretty bottle with the base shaped like a rosé—a wine to be given in the same way you would offer a bunch of roses. The wine is fruity and fresh, just like a rose.
With the berries abundant in the glorious season of summer, we made a Blackberry-Blueberry-Strawberry Tart. Everything comes easy here in America so we bought a baked tart. I simply cooked my favorite custard filling while Patricia beautifully arranged the berries on top of the custard filling.