My very first trip to the United States was way back in 1985. A couple of my Aunts and Uncles migrated to the USA back in the 1970s, and my family and I have been constantly invited to visit them. That monumental trip led us to Los Angeles, and every trip thereafter was almost always in the West Coast where most of my Mom’s friends and family members resided. Only a few of them immigrated to the East Coast, and that trip only came late in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Honestly, I was a bit envious of my cousins who had grown and lived in the USA almost all their lives. I felt they were more fortunate than I was in terms of growth and job opportunities, education, quality of life and the general point of view of living life itself in a more open society. It was not a secluded society, and as cliché as it may sound, some kind or some form of ‘freedom’ for individuals and new settlers alike indeed was felt. I also never expected to be an immigrant myself 20 years later.
Anyway, what drew me more into this utopia of sorts was the abundance and affordability of food. Grocery food was definitely for the masses, and the middle class, and anyone in the street can afford to purchase what’s needed, what’s wanted, and what’s required on a day-to-day basis. That was a relatively new concept back then and having been brought up by South Supermarket in Paranaque where my family and I had lived, that was totally an exuberating experience for a growing teenager with strong ideals and dreams. South Supermarket was in no way close to these huge market places where everything and anything can be had for cheap at bulk prices.
Besides these discount supermarkets, I was also drawn by the growing and expanding Mexican food over at the West Coast for obvious reasons. Taco Bell was my fastfood of choice and Denny’s was a major treat. I’ve never had an American breakfast set in Diner style before, and Denny’s, as a teenager, fascinated me like no other for recreating that atmosphere. Nevertheless, I still searched for the real deal, Mexican food besides Taco Bell, and I found authentic Mexican restaurants along the way. Mexican food for me was a complex mixture of flavours, but after being exposed to it just last year through a myriad of cooking shows, I discovered that many Mexican recipes were Spanish based; only infused by Mexican chilis and beans which were abundant in the area or any other local ingredients that was locally grown or harvested like cacti. Furthermore, recipes were very easy to prepare and almost all ingredients were readily available in market shelves.
Like Afritada, the Filipino Picadillo or Giniling can be totally boring. I’ve had tasted Giniling countless times; from cafeterias, in plastic bags for lunch delivered by Makati Gilid ‘Caterers,’ to side street vendors, and didn’t feel any gusto eating ground meat with potatoes and peas dowsed in diluted and greasy tomato sauce. It was as plain and as morbid as my ex-wife’s lame excuses and shameless upheavals. I have decided to twist this Giniling by adding some Mexican flavour into it, and adding Zucchini which is originally is not mixed with the traditional Giniling. I knew Zucchini would work well with tomatoes, limes and Oregano. The chilis definitely stood out in the sauce. It took a little more time to prepare, but by the next day, the sauce became even better.
- Ground Chicken (Pork or Beef)
- Italian Sausages or Chorizo
- Red Onions
- Guajillo Peppers (dried)
- Plum Tomatoes
- Red & Green Bell Peppers
- Garlic (for roasting and sautéing)
- Yukon Gold Potatoes
- Green Onion
- Mexican Oregano
- Mexican Chili Powder (Optional)
Red Chili Tomato Sauce:
Roast the Garlic, Green & Red Bell Peppers, and Tomatoes on the stovetop or in the oven. Let the tomatoes cool at room temperature and peel the skin. Meanwhile, roast the Guajillo Chilis on a skillet or Grill pan until the essential oil is released. Soak them in warm water for half an hour or so and de-seed.
Pan-fry some sausages (Chorizo) in a sauce pan and set aside.
Blend the Chilis, Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic and Bell Peppers, and strain back into the sauce pan where the Sausages were pan-fried. Add some of the water from the soaked Chilis to adjust the consistency. Adjust further the seasoning with Mexican Oregano and salt & ground black pepper to taste.
Boil the potatoes until tender, peel and let it cool at room temperature. When manageable, dice.
Peel and dice the Zucchini. Add salt and draw out the moisture using a strainer.
Pan-fry the potatoes and Zucchini until golden and set aside.
Season the meat and dust with flour. Set the stovetop to medium-high and pan-fry the ground meat until brown. When brown, set it at one side of the pan and add in the red onions and garlic. Continue sautéing and when the meat is nearly done, slowly incorporate the Red Chili Tomato Sauce into the pan. Stir continuously.
Set the meat at one side of the plate and the sides on the other. Garnish with finely chopped green onion (or cilantro) and finely diced, de-seeded tomatoes.
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