To help address the issue of world hunger, World Food Day is observed on Oct. 16 every year.
Started by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1979, World Food Day has focused on different themes every year to eradicate hunger, promote good nutrition and food security and break the cycle of rural poverty.
This year the theme is “Healthy Diets for a Zero Hunger World.”
To do its part in this worthwhile endeavor, Makati Shangri-La is focusing on simple yet sustainable efforts. The hotel has started its own herb garden, for instance, to get its own supply of herbs and spices for its kitchen requirements.
Located in an upstairs outdoor terrace, the herb garden had started to look productive when we looked in a few weeks ago.
Executive chef Nicola Canuti and executive sous chef Thenesh Murugaya proudly showed off pots of basil and mint which had sprouted green, healthy leaves.
Thin, feathery needles of dill—good for seasoning seafood and adding to creamy sauces—had bloomed in abundance. Still waiting to grow were the parsley, cilantro, chives and hot peppers.
The long-term goal is to source organic produce from garden to table, said hotel manager Udo Wittich.
In addition, the hotel partnered with MNL Growkits, which offered organic plant kits, which could easily be grown and tended even by inexperienced urban gardeners. For a few days, Growkits had a pop-up merchandise booth at Shangri-La’s Circles Events Café, to encourage diners to grow their own herbs and vegetables.
Just to show us how some herbs could be turned into delicious sauces and side dishes, chefs Nicola and Thenesh prepared fresh ingredients and challenged us to turn them into chimichurri, romesco, piperade, guacamole and molcajeteada sauces.
I was included in the group that made romesco sauce. Using mortar and pestle, we crushed the almonds and pine nuts, pounded them with garlic, red pepper, chilies and tomatoes, blended them with olive oil, and seasoned the whole mixture with salt and pepper.
The result was a sauce with a nutty texture and a smoky flavor, with a hint of spice and a dash of sweetness. Romesco sauce is a tasty accompaniment to grilled chicken, fish and roasted vegetables and is also a delicious dip for bread.
Moreover we didn’t need any high-tech kitchen gadget. With just a simple mortar and pestle, and some muscle input, we accomplished the job in a few minutes.
Here’s the recipe for romesco sauce. It’s quick to make, but the flavor is complex, rather sophisticated. When you serve it, your friends will think you’re a good cook.
¼ c toasted almonds
¼ c toasted pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ of a large piece of roasted red bell pepper (see tips)
5-6 pc bird’s eye chilies
(siling labuyo), seeds removed
3 small peeled and seeded ripe tomatoes
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large mortar and pestle, pound the almonds and pine nuts until finely crushed. Add the garlic, red bell pepper, chilies and tomatoes and continue pounding until creamy. Pour in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix until well blended and smooth.
Serve with chicken, seafood, vegetables and steaks. This can also be used as a dip for chips, crusty breads and flat breads.
Be sure to wash your hands well after handling the chilies. The residue from the chilies could sting the eyes.
For the red bell pepper, use the roasted canned pimiento. This is available in supermarkets.
If the mixture turns out to be too spicy, add a dash of sugar and blend well.