[Recipe] Baked Filipino Torta

By Bianca Garcia

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

I grew up eating torta. I ate it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, always served with fluffy white rice. Torta was one of my family’s go-to dishes, made with simple ingredients that even picky eaters would appreciate. It’s essentially a round omelette with ground pork, onions, and potatoes.

It is sometimes referred to as “tortang giniling” (giniling = ground) because it is made with ground meat, typically pork or beef. This distinguishes it from different versions of torta. For instance, there’s “tortang talong” (talong = eggplant). There’s “tortang gulay” (gulay = vegetables), that’s made with different veggies like squash, bittermelon, cabbage, etc. There’s also a dish that is a combination of the above: tortang talong (eggplant) stuffed with ground beef. That dish is called a rellenong talong (relleno refers to anything that is stuffed) but then we are going on a different topic, and I’m here to talk about torta. Specifically ground pork torta.

The torta we eat at home in the Philippines is made painstakingly by my Tita Ine. It has teeny tiny cubes of uniformly cut potatoes that mingles seamlessly with the juicy ground pork, all in a delicate frittata-like casing, flavored simply with white onions and salt (never pepper). She cooks the ground pork first, then the potatoes and onions, adds in eggs that have been whisked into submission, and then flips the entire pan into a plate, and transfers it back to the pan to cook the other side. I’ve tried many times to recreate her recipe and follow her instructions, but it never turns out the same because 1) my knife skills are not great / I don’t have the patience to cut teeny tiny cubes of potatoes, 2) my flipping skills need work (there’s been more than one occasion of a torta gone wrong), and 3) I always seem to overstuff my torta and it doesn’t exactly come out as a delicate piece of art.

So I decided to make my own, easier, non-intimidating version. I made a few updates: 1) I roughly chop the potatoes into half-inch cubes, 2) I bake the torta, which saves me the stress of flipping it, and 3) I use a deep dish pan so even if it’s overstuffed, things don’t spill out of the pan, and instead it comes out as one big sturdy-looking frittata.

Below is my own recipe, which my husband and I make at least every other week. It has the same flavors as the torta I grew up with, and it still goes very well with white rice. But it also goes well with an arugula salad, or a sandwich (with a little smear of mayo, yum), or just eaten by itself. I like dipping it in ketchup, but some people like fish sauce or soy sauce.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Baked Filipino Torta by Bianca Garcia

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground pork
2 medium potatoes, chopped into ½ inch cubes
½ cup chopped white onions
6 large eggs
Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. On the stovetop, heat olive oil in a large oven-safe pan over medium-high heat (you can use a cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan). Add ground pork. Stir often and break up clumps with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Remove pork from pan and set aside.

  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add potatoes and cook for about 3 minutes, and then add onions. Cook until onions are translucent and potatoes are soft.

  4. Beat the eggs with a generous pinch of salt.

  5. Add eggs to pan. Let sit on stovetop for a minute or two, until edges start to set, and then transfer to oven.

  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until eggs are set.

  7. Slice into wedges and serve.

I know that torta could mean different things for different cuisines: it could be a Mexican sandwich, a Spanish flatbread, an Italian cake, a Brazilian pie. But to me, it’s an egg concoction with ground meat and veggies. To me, it has always been Tita Ine’s torta. And now, it’s mine, too.


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.

Food and Recipes Inspired by My Mom Celia

By Bianca Garcia

Continuing our May celebration of mothers, I want to talk about my mom, Celia. She is my most influential food guides. She has always been the first one to introduce me to different tastes and flavors from all over the world. I learned to love food because of her, and as fate would have it, I now have a food blog where I can share my favorite foods with the world, too.

Here are some of my mom-inspired recipes and favorite foods that I’ve shared on my blog:

kesong puti, pan de sal, tsokolate © Bianca Garcia

kesong puti, pan de sal, tsokolate © Bianca Garcia

It all started when I was still in utero, and my pregnant mom was constantly craving and eating kesong puti, the milky white cheese that’s native to the Philippines. It’s essentially buffalo mozzarella, but creamier and fresher. According to Filipino superstition, my mom’s pregnancy craving was the main reason why I myself developed a lifelong longing for kesong puti.

sardinas © Bianca Garcia

sardinas © Bianca Garcia

My mom is the one who taught me to love sardinas (sardines), the Spanish or Portuguese kind, in oil and spices. I love these little sardines (that still have skin and bones), on top whole wheat bread, toasted dark, slathered with creamy butter.

key lime pie © Bianca Garcia

key lime pie © Bianca Garcia

My mom loves key lime pie, and (surprise!) so do I. Key limes are smaller than regular limes, with a more yellowish skin, instead of bright green. They are very similar to Filipino calamansi. I would juice a million key limes by hand for my mom!

(Here’s my easy recipe for Key Lime Pie.)

caramel thumbprint cookies © Bianca Garcia

caramel thumbprint cookies © Bianca Garcia

My mom cannot turn down anything “turtle” flavored - chocolate, caramel, pecans. These little turtle cookies are a nice little treat. Like me, she enjoys dessert. But unlike me, she’s typically content with smaller portions (ha!).

(Here’s my recipe for Caramel Thumbprint Cookies.)

moms-pasta-sauce-600x400.jpg

My mom makes me feel like I can do anything. She believes that I can go to Harvard, land my my dream job(s), star in a TV show, rule the world. Thanks to her encouragement and support, I have done it all. Well, I’m still waiting on that last part, but Beyonce says we already run the world anyway…

Her faith in my cooking also helped me finally recreate her famous pasta sauce, which is like a mixture of a bolognese with a surf and turf plate. It’s a meat-lovers sauce (ground beef + bacon + Italian sausage) with big juicy shrimp. It’s as mouth-watering as it sounds.   

(Here’s the recipe for My Mom’s Pasta Sauce.)

mini almond cinnamon buns © Bianca Garcia

mini almond cinnamon buns © Bianca Garcia

When I see any kind of citrus marmalade - orange, lemon, grapefruit - I immediately think of my mom. And when I see a breakfast treat or pastry studded with nuts - almonds, pecans, walnuts - I think of my mom as well. I wanted to make a citrusy breakfast inspired by her favorite flavors, and landed on little cinnamon buns with almond paste, slivered almonds, and Meyer lemon marmalade.

Meyer lemons, by the way, are like a cross between a lemon and an orange. They’re sweet and not as tart as their more ubiquitous cousins. They’re also smaller with a thinner skin that has a slightly more orange tint, and they come into season during mid-winter to late spring. They remind me of Filipino dalandan.

(Here’s my recipe for Mini Almond Cinnamon Buns.)

crab cake linguini © Bianca Garcia

crab cake linguini © Bianca Garcia

Even though I’m a woman in my thirties, I am not exactly adept at eating crab, one of my favorite seafoods. That’s because whenever I’m home or with my parents, I turn into a child and ask my mom to do the work  for me. Shell the crab, pick the meat, open the claws – the whole show. She’s just so adept at it! (And I’m too lazy.) My mom and I both love crab cakes, so I made this easy but luxurious-tasting linguini with crab cakes.

(Here’s my recipe for Crab Cake Linguini.)

cheesy anchovy toast © Bianca Garcia

cheesy anchovy toast © Bianca Garcia

Last but not least, since my mom was the one who influenced my love for anchovies and all things cheesy (melted cheese, snacking cheese, cheesecake, cacio e pepe - if it has cheese, give it to me) I recently made this anchovy toast. Crunchy bread, garlicky cheese spread, and salty anchovies, finished with a shower of chopped chives and red pepper flakes. The flavors are unapologetically strong, not for the fainthearted, and perfect in every way.

(Here’s my recipe for Cheesy Anchovy Toast.)

Bianca and Mom in the 80s © Bianca Garcia

Bianca and Mom in the 80s © Bianca Garcia

Thank you, Mommy, for introducing me to the foods that have become my favorites  <3

I hope I was able to inspire some of you to make something delicious and enjoy it with your mom and loved ones!

Filipino Chicken Adobo Recipe

By Bianca Garcia

© Bianca Garcia

© Bianca Garcia

During one of our early BOSFilipinos meetings, Leila, Trish, and I talked about our family’s version of adobo. I said my family’s is very vinegary, Trish said her family’s is a little sweet, and Leila said her family’s is pretty balanced, with equal amounts of soy sauce and vinegar. We all said our family’s version is the best.

If you don’t know yet, adobo is any meat or any combination of meats that is are braised and simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, lots of garlic, black peppercorn, and bay leaves. Saveur wrote a good Beginner’s Guide to Adobo. It’s the unofficial national dish of the Philippines, so ingrained in our culture, that just the thought of the fragrant stew can make any Filipino think fondly of home.

One of the wonderful things about adobo is you can alter it in many different ways to make it your own. You can change the ratio of vinegar and soy sauce, you can use different meats (my family’s go to is pork and liver) or vegetables (my favorite is sitaw, or string beans), you can add coconut milk, a little sugar, onions, ginger, hard-boiled eggs, chilies. However way you make it, I’m sure it will be delicious. And pretty soon, you’ll be claiming your version is the best.

CHICKEN ADOBO Recipe by Bianca Garcia

INGREDIENTS

6 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)

1 ½ cups vinegar

½ cup soy sauce

10 garlic cloves (around 1 whole head of garlic), smashed

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon coarse salt

8-10 dried bay leaves

1 cup water

1 tablespoon olive oil

fresh chives for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, and seven of the smashed garlic cloves in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add one cup water, plus more if necessary, to barely cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

  2. Remove the cover and simmer, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.

  3. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken and set aside. Increase heat to high and allow the broth to continue simmering.

  4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic cloves. Add chicken and sear each piece on both sides until golden brown and skin is crispy.

  5. Return chicken to the pot, and continue reducing the sauce by simmering for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens to your liking. Serve with white rice, and garnish with chives, green onion, and/or chilies.

If you’d like to read more of my story, check out my post on Filipino Chicken Adobo on Confessions of a Chocoholic.

And If you’d like to explore other variations, check out the following recipes:

Chicken Adobo is the Greatest Recipe of All time by Bon Appetit

What I Cook When I’m Alone: Top Chef Winner Paul Qui’s Pork Adobo Recipee

Enjoy!