What’s new is a question Lyndon Tan of Basic Necessity Inc. often has an answer to.
Tan started his business in 1997. I recall having worked with him when his produce list was limited to a few lettuce varieties and multicolored capsicums. Those were the days I got excited at the sight of his huge, plump red, yellow and green bell peppers. At the time, having washed, picked, mixed and safe-to-eat lettuce in bags, like they do in the US, was still a dream in local markets.
Thanks to Lyndon for making life more convenient. Salad Time—his prewashed, ready-to-eat lettuce mixes, herbs and a jolly jumble of other gourmet produce—is now readily available and of consistently superior quality. I love his baby arugula. He has even been successful in growing varietals many thought would not thrive in the tropics.
According to Lyndon, Basic has completed its modern laboratory and will concentrate on food safety. “We religiously test our products for E. coli or salmonella. This will pave the way to our shift to organic production,” he says.
My favorite product is the pimientos de Padrón—small green peppers, a Spanish tapas bar classic. These peppers have a tinge of spice with a hint of sweetness. No two are alike, so each pepper is quite a surprise.
For a tapas feast, simply rinse the pimientos, dry and pan-fry in olive oil until slightly wilted, then sprinkle with sea salt.
Serve the pimientos with an assortment of your favorite Spanish cured meats arranged in a spread, such as salchichon, chorizo, lomo, chistorra and fuet, to name a few. Add chunky fried potatoes, Spanish olives—plain or stuffed, crusty bread, queso Manchego and Spanish wine or sangria! All available at Terry’s Selection (8441816).
Another way I like to eat padróns is with lechon kawali—the peppers cooked as described above, alongside tomatoes, onions and bagoong isda. Nice to eat with adobo and sinigang, too!
Then, there are the habañeros, one of the hottest peppers in the world.
But before that—call Tortelleria Mexicana at 8622473 and look for Jing. Order the cheese, barbecue and sour cream tortillas and the El Mexicano Cheese Sauce (delicious!).
Then make a salsa by combining the following in a bowl, mixing and seasoning it to taste:
1 c white onion,
¼ c shallots, chopped
2 c tomatoes, chopped
1-2 habañeros, chopped
½ c chopped fresh cilantro including stalks
2 tsp pounded garlic with a pinch of salt
1 tbsp distilled or cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ c olive oil, salt and pepper
Add 1 c firm avocado, chopped if in season, last
Toast tortilla chips in a toaster oven. Arrange on a serving platter. Heat up cheese sauce over low heat in a thick pan or simply warm in microwave, drizzle generously over chips and top with salsa. Enjoy!
You can also try to make your own habañero hot sauce by roasting or steaming the following ingredients: 1 red capsicum—seeded, 5-6 seeded habañero chilies (adjust to taste), 6 shallots, 1 whole garlic and 1 slice ginger.
Steaming and roasting will produce different tasting sauces, though both are delicious. The roasted one has more character, especially if roasted on an open fire.
Roast the capsicum and peel. I like roasting the shallots with the skin on, then peeling them, same with the garlic. Leave both shallot and garlic whole, brush with oil, roast until tender and then slowly peel the skin off. Brush habañeros with oil, too, before roasting. Cook until slightly charred and soft.
If you decide to steam your sauce, do so for five minutes and add a slice or two of ginger and one stalk green onion to the recipe. Steam them all together for an Asian twist.
Put steamed or roasted ingredients in a blender, thin with chicken stock to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and/or vinegar to taste. Add a pinch of sugar to soften the sharpness of the chilies, not to make it sweet; though you may make the sauce a bit sweet, if you wish.
What I like about habañeros is that they do not linger in the palate, considering how hot the chili is.
Another addition to Lyndon’s vegetable basket is the Romanesco, also called the Roman cauliflower. It is cooked just as you would a broccoli or cauliflower, but it has a different look—yellow green, with pointed florets. A curious addition to any plated dish.
Basic Necessity products can be found at leading supermarkets such as Rustan’s and Unimart. For wholesale orders and information, call Malyn Silava at 0918-9259157.