by Ana de Villa Singson
After a long hiatus (our last AAA CLUB-BING ACTIVITY was in November 2022!), AAA CLUB-BING came back with a bang! And top billing our lineup of really exciting clubs and really stellar mentors, was the AAA COOKING AND BAKING CLUB’s MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE session with CHEF MARC LICAROS.
As in 2022, I wanted AAA CLUB-BING’s 2023 activities to be kicked off and launched by an alumnae…and CHEF MARC LICAROS is as close to an alumnae as we can get. His sisters Ariane (HS 83), Donna (HS 82), Reena(HS 80) are all dear friends. His mother, Tita Pinky del Rosario Zeller (HS 56), wears the red plaid proudly…as do his aunties from the del Rosario side. And like any true Assumption family, his family joined us in the ANI Kitchen, in full force, supportive, loving…very Assumptionist to the core. And when all of us attending (it was a fully packed class) were talking a mile a minute and oohing and ahhing over every single dish, requesting for seconds and thirds…Chef Marc smiled benignly. The youngest brother in a family of Assumptionists, he knew exactly how excited we can get; he grew up with Assumptionists after all!
Chef Marc’s palate was well developed at a very young age. A student of the world’s flavors, he travelled extensively (he still does) with New York as one of the centers of his culinary growth. From a “family that loves to eat”, Marc’s father introduced him to the world’s cuisines in the 80’s and 90’s. He was later taken under the tutelage of the Late Chef Eddie Boy Quimson and was further honed by culinary luminaries: Chefs Billy King, Jessie Sincioco and Marc Aubrey of the renowned Le Souffle Restaurant. He helmed Penang Resturant and the uber chic and exclusive, bespoke Lanai Café. He is both the owner and Operations Manager of the flourishing Gorio’s Roadside Restaurant in Tagaytay.
For our Mediterranean culinary adventure, Chef Marc brought to life comfort foods which had his signature twists. He made everything look so amazingly simple…while looking so so sophisticated and cosmopolitan. And, courtesy of his doting sister Ariane, we were all treated to rounds of chilled rose’ in champagne flutes. The wine service was flawless served by no less than fully trained butlers! Marc’s wife after all, the very charming Sanj , graduated from The International Butler Academy in the Netherlands and runs The Daily Butlery, a pioneer in the curriculum-based butler style training, home management and consultancy service in the metropolis. (Worried about errant staff who don’t know how to set the table or properly serve? Send them off to be trained at The Daily Butlery!)
First up was Escalivada, vegetables directly roasted on an open flame, then peeled, artfully arranged and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar (I used champagne vinegar when I made it the very next day at home…and it was divine!). The Escalivada, garnished with anchovies, olives, sardines, Manchego and ham, was piled on top of Pan con Tomate, the grilled bread topped with flavored crushed tomato ,ubiquitously served throughout Barcelona. What can I say? I downed more than half a dozen slices of the tomato bread topped with roasted aubergine, red, yellow bell peppers, onions, anchovies, then transferred to another table to grab a few more slices. It’s one of those table pleasers which looks very upscale, colorful, inviting while still being extremely easy to prepare. This dish has featured on my table several times after the session with Chef Marc…it’s a quick and flavor-filled way to add vegetables to a meal without spending too much time and effort!!!
We were then taught to cook mussels 2 ways…the traditional French Moules Mariniere with garlic, parsley and wine and Mussels with Tomato and Garlic Broth. And while both had us cooing over the plump Chilean mussels, it was the Mussels with Tomato and Garlic Broth that had me going back for seconds, thirds and fourths. I don’t normally associate tomato with mussels, but this dish is now a staple in my home. And…it’s a breeze to prepare, especially when using frozen pre-cooked mussels (available in S&R, Santi’s and many online deli shops!).
Torta de Patatas is the dish that made my heart race when I saw it in the lineup. It is a favorite of my son, Manuel, and I have attempted several tortas, only to have them burned to a crisp outside or uncooked and runny in the center. The secret, as demonstrated by Chef Marc is to cook over a very low flame, a simmering flame, and leaving the torta to cook for 8-10 undisturbed minutes before flipping over. Of course, Chef Marc had several of his own innovations! In the first torta (yes he taught us 2 ways as well!), the traditional thinly cut and pre-fried potatoes were present, with additional ham slices and grated cheese! And the cheese…he used the humble Eden Cheddar cheese…and it was sooooo good! Further proof that good food requires imagination, it doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket! And for version 2, Chef Marc used camote in lieu of potatoes, yes, local orange camote, pre-fried and seasoned with salt then added to the torta with onions and leeks. It’s healthy, it panders to everyone’s sweet tooth, it is uniquely distinctive …and yummy!!!!
As our main course, Chef Marc demonstrated Tuscan Chicken, chicken breasts cooked in a wine cream sauce flavored with sun dried tomatoes and infused with hearty kale. It is a festive addition to any table and again…very easy to prepare. With my cook on medical leave for over a month, I found myself manning the kitchen and cooking for my 3 men! And this dish made several successful appearances, with the serving dish wiped out down to the last drop of the tomato cream sauce! It’s pretty on the table too, with slashes of red from the sundried tomato and the dark green contrast of the kale! (Chef’s Tip: you can substitute spinach for the kale!)
The cooking session was a happy one…with pink flushed cheeks after endless pours of excellent rose’ wine, we were teasing each other that we had all turned into peaches and cream “mestizas”! It was a very generous session too. The chef obligingly cooked more of the Tuscan chicken and Pan con Tomate…they were so good…and we were indulging our appetites en famille style! Very generous too was our Chef, who very gallantly refused to take payment for any of the ingredients he used, gifting us not only with his time, immense talent and vast patience (we were a raucous happy group!), but also with all the many ingredients he used to wine and dine us! And the generosity didn’t end there…when almost everyone had gone and I was supervising the tidying up, Tita Pinky, ever-gracious asked me “Ana, are you giving the staff a tip?” I whispered sotto voce that our budget was tight and there was no need. A gentlewoman to the core, she went around the room tipping cleaners, assistants, videographers, even my driver who was hauling dishes was so happy to be gifted with a tip!
We learned to cook fancy looking dishes which are easy to make and which don’t break the bank! We learned that family bonds run deep in Assumption families. I saw that and basked in the pride that Tita Pinky, Ariane, Donna, Reena and some of the Del Rosario aunties had when watching and supporting Chef Marc during the demo. I learned that Assumptionists are gracious and kind and know how to show appreciation for the many who make our hearth and table fragrant and yummy and a happy place to gather around! So many beautiful lessons that day! Take a look at the recipes, watch the videos…and pick up lessons of your own.
1/4C Pure Olive Oil
1 Red Onion sliced thinly
1 stalk Leek, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly
6 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1C White wine
1Kg Frozen Mussels
3 Stalks Minced fresh parsley leaves
1T. Lemon juice juice and zest of lemon
1 Grilled or toasted garlic bread
(olive oil, garlic, lemon zest,butter, parsley, salt, pepper)
1. In a medium sized stockpot or large saucepan, heat 1 olive oil in medium-low heat. Add onions, garlic, leeks and bay leaves. Season lightly with salt and heavily with black pepper and cook, stirring, until onions and garlic are soft but not browned, about 7 minutes.
2. Increase heat to high and add wine. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for about 2 minutes. Add mussels, stir, cover, and cook, shaking pan and peeking every so often to stir. Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes then transfer mussels to a bowl Place pan lid over bowl to keep mussels warm.
3. Lower the heat and whisk in remaining butter. Adjust the seasoning the return mussels to pot, add parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest, give it a quick stir then transfer to a warm serving bowl.
4. Serve immediately with garlic bread
5. *You may serve with some Alioli on the side.
1/4C Pure olive oil
1 White onion, chopped fine
6 Cloves garlic, minced
3T Fresh parsley
2C Canned crushed tomatoes
1/4tsp Dried oregano
1/4 tsp Dried red-pepper flakes
1/2C White wine
1Kg Frozen Mussels
Fresh-ground black pepper
Salt (if needed)
1 Grilled of toasted garlic bread
(olive oil, garlic, lemon zest,butter, parsley, salt, pepper)
1. In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft but not brown, (about 5 minutes). Stir in tomatoes, thyme, and red-pepper flakes. Add white wine l, bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the mussels to the pot. Cover; bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer, while occasionally shaking the pot. Stir the black pepper into the broth/sauce. Taste and, if needed, add salt.
3. Add the parsley and mix. Transfer the mussels and sauce to a warm serving dish
4. serve with the garlic bread.
1 Medium onion, thinly sliced
3 Small potatoes
1/4C Olive oil
1 Medium green bell pepper
1/2C Chopped ham
Oil for frying potatoes
1. Lightly fry potatoes in cooking’s oil until tender then set aside.
2. Sauté onion and bell peppers and set aside
3. Beat 8 eggs, season with salt and add potatoes, onions and bell pepper.
4. Heat a teflon pan and add olive oil.
5. Add egg mixture and add cheese and ham.
6. Gently fold mixture until you are ready to let it set.
7. Lower the flame and cook until the middle is almost cooked and the tortilla will not fall apart.
8. When ready to flip, place a plate facing down on top of the pan and while firmly holding the plate and pan, flip. Gently loosen the tortilla on to the plate then slide it back in.
9. Cook for another few minutes until egg is fully cooked.
10. Serve warm or room temperature with bread.
1Kg Chicken Breast (whole or cut in to big pcs.)
2T Cooking oil
4T Olive oil
6-8 Garlic Cloves (sliced)
1 Medium white onion (sliced)
1/2C Sundried tomatoes (sliced) or cherry tomatoes (whole)
1/4C White wine
1/2C Chicken stock or water
1. Marinate chicken breast in salt, pepper and lemon juice
2. Grill chicken breast in a pan with oil and set aside
3. Scrape pan clean (save any of the fond and lower flame.
4. Sauté sliced garlic, onion and add sundried tomatoes
(If using cherry tomatoes, add tomatoes now)
5. Deglaze with white wine
6. Add cream
7. Season sauce with salt and pepper
8. Add chicken stock or water to thin out the sauce if necessary
9. Add kale
10. Season With Knorr Seasoning (optional)
11. Add dripping of chicken
12. Add the Chicken pieces to the sauce to warm or cook a little more.
13. Sprinkle with Parsley
2 Bell peppers (red, green or yellow)
3 Eggplants (medium)
1 White onion (big)
1 Garlic (whole head)
2 Leeks (whole stalk)
1/2C Pure olive oil, plus more for drizzling
-Fresh or grilled bread
-Pan con tomate
-More vinegar and olive oil
1. Gather the ingredients.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 F/176 C or fire up your gas or charcoal grill
3. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil.
4. Rinse the eggplant, peppers, onions, garlic, parsley and leeks.
5. Make small slits in the skin of the eggplants so that they don’t split open as they cook.
6. Place the peppers, onions, and head of garlic on the grill or roasting pan. Brush all vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
7. Grill or roast in oven on the for about 1 hour, turning vegetables over every 20 minutes or so. Continue roasting until vegetables are cooked—for another 20 to 30 minutes.
8. If any vegetables, particularly peppers are thoroughly cooked, while others need more time, remove from grill or oven and continue roasting the rest.
9. Remove all the vegetables from the pan and allow to cool.
10. Then, carefully remove the skin from peppers and eggplant. Cut onions, eggplants and peppers into strips and place them in a bowl or plate, sprinkle with salt and a big splash of vinegar, drizzle with a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil.
11. Add whole leeks and garlic to your plate and some roughly chopped parsley
12. Serve and enjoy!
*As a side for: