family

palitaw + filipino desserts for food52

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I wrote and shot my first piece for Food52 and it's all about Filipino desserts and I'm so proud/tired/elated I could faceplant in a bowl of ginatan (mmm...).

I called my mom every day over the two months it took me to write it, and I'm really glad she was my lifeline throughout. (Most of my texts to her were along the lines of, "does this look horrible?" and "oops I...")

Anyway! These palitaw are included in the round up, but I'm sharing the (non) recipe here! These are vegan and gluten free, as many Filipino desserts happen to be, and are similar to mochi in texture. My mom happened to be visiting for my birthday when we made these, so you've got her expert hands to guide you with visuals. Enjoy!

ingredients

glutinous rice flour
water
grated coconut
sesame seeds
sugar

instructions

Fill a pot of water and set to a low simmer on the stove. Shred and flatten the grated coconut on a plate and set aside.

In a bowl, slowly add water to the rice flour, kneading as you go, until the mixture is no longer pasty but still sticky. (Think mochi!) I can't emphasize how important it is to go slowly with the water! 

Once you have a big blob of perfect consistency, pinch of a gumball-sized chunk, roll into a ball in your palms, then flatten. Drop the palitaw into the boiling water until it floats, then scoop out and place on the bed of coconut. "Bread" each side with coconut and place on a plate.

Once all the palitaw are coconut-ed, toast the sesame seeds then grind with a mortar and pestle. Mix with a bowl of sugar, then sprinkle the sesame-sugar mix onto the palitaw. Share with your friends who don't know what Filipino desserts are ASAP.

to the father of my dreams

us


I didn’t know how I’d grieve for someone who wasn’t there. I spent my whole life missing you. I still do.

But I had my hazy memories from before you left. Your mustache and your laugh. You singing “Home on the Range.” Feeling like I was someone’s little girl. Little bits of you I’d immortalized in my heart. 

Then we had that summer. After years of dreaming, you were right in front of me. A little weathered, and your mustache was gone, but you were real and I could hug you. You told us what a great man Lolo Pio was and took us to Romblon. You let me blow my nose into the handkerchief you always carried. And you laughed at my jokes and became the father I’d hoped for. My heart aches for that summer and the sound of your whistling— your never-ending song to the world. Nothing has ever sounded so pure or so sweet.

Together, these pieces made up the only you I knew. 

Later I grew resentful until I detached. When I was 19, you had a stroke and I wrote to you from my dorm room, mourning the relationship we didn’t have. I wanted to tell you everything, and I was sad I couldn’t. You wrote back and told me I was your treasure.

I wish I had spent more time with you, the last time I saw you. I came with a guarded heart. I sat on the sidelines and saw you as a father for someone else. You were great. 

But I’ll never forget that moment you picked me up from the airport. It was hot and crowded and I couldn’t find you. Just as I was about to give up, I looked into the sea of people and saw you there waiting for me, just like I always wanted.

I’ll never stop holding my breath for you. I love you.

Yours always,
Celeste

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for my grandmother

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On the day that my grandmother would have been 91, I made a dish that reminded me of home and of her. I'm almost embarrassed to say how long it's been since I've had any food that really reminds me of home. About a year or so into college, I became a pescetarian and with the exception of travel, never had meat outside of fish and seafood. I liked living this way, for the most part. But since moving to Portland, it's begun weighing on me more and more that in adopting this lifestyle, I was essentially rejecting a huge part of my culture.

Filipino food is almost all meat-based. I can't remember a single vegetarian dish from my childhood. As I moved further away and my trips home became less frequent, it began to bother me that I'd created a restriction for myself that denied me one of the richest parts of my heritage.

So for the first time ever, I made my own version of misua ("mee-swah"). I thought of it first when I was at a farmers market and found a chayote. I don't think I'd seen once since I lived with my mom and even though I had no idea how to cook it, I bought it. And sent my mom this text.

As it turns out, my mom and grandmother don't really put chayote in misua ever (I was confusing it with patola), but it still turned out okay and it was my first time really attempting anything filipino and I'M REALLY PROUD, OKAY?! As I made this, I called my mom, guessed, called my mom again, and guessed more. If I've learned anything about Filipino cooking from my mom, it's that there aren't really recipes and you can do whatever you want. (My mom sent me a "copy" of the recipe like this.)

And this is a very roundabout way to say this but my heart sang and cried and burst when the misua was done. I realized I used the "wrong" vegetable and the noodles lumped together and it is certainly not the most photogenic dish, but it was my dish. Inspired by the most amazing women I know. On my grandmother's birthday.

I miss her so much. Making and eating this makes me miss her a little less and a lot more at the same time. 

Happy Birthday to the only person I know who's never put a single person before herself. I love you, Mama Hely.

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Chayote Misua
inspired by the best women I know

Ingredients

a splash of olive oil
one small onion, chopped
cloves of garlic, minced
1 chayote, peeled, pitted and cut into cubes
3/4 lbs ground meat (I used pork)
salt and pepper
water
a handful of the extra fine rice vermicelli 
 

Recipe

Heat the olive oil in a large pot then add the garlic and onions. Once the onions soften, add the chayote. Simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the chayote begins to soften. Add the meat, season with salt and pepper, and stir until just cooked. When all of the ingredients have cooked, add enough water to just cover everything by a little less than an inch. Allow to simmer on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes to let the flavors combine. Salt and pepper to taste. When you're about 10 minutes before serving, turn up the heat and allow the soup to boil. Once bubbling, add the noodles and allow to soften and cook for about five minutes. 

Share with your friends and serve over white rice (of course).

A big thanks to my friends at Staub for helping me find my perfect dutch oven. This one is gorgeous and works like a dream.

the schmidt family

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I met the Schmidt family at their home just days after little Ren was born. Neve was spunky and excited to be a brand new big sister-- you could see she had so much personality in just watching her run around and help her dad water plants. The visit was brief but so heartwarming seeing a new family become a new family