How lucky I am to have met in one way or another cooking/foodie legends like the late Doreen Fernandez, Amy Besa and Nora Daza. The last is sort of cheating on my part because she is the mom of my good friend from high school, Nina Daza-Puyat. In high school, I would watch Nora Daza cook away on saturday mornings.
Many years later, for my wedding gift, my officemate Fe gave me a book: Nora Daza’s A Culinary Life. Today, the inside covers have turned speckled yellow and brown and the pages have loosened–proof that it has been used for many lovely meals, fun parties and joyous reunions for friends, family and loved-ones.
There is a simple entry in that book which for a change I make more for myself. A side dish that is so good, it makes the main dish sing. A simple fried or grilled fish becomes an elegant course—that deserves lots and lots of rice. 2 jars sit in my refrigerator, flavors of pickle juice, shallots, briny olives, paprika and olive oil slowly meld together. I tweaked it a bit by having green AND black olives, less chopped green onions and extra virgin olive oil.
Nora V. Daza : A Culinary Life (Personal Recipe Collection) Printed 1992
- 1 ½ cups bread crumbs
- 2 T paprika
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup juice of sweet mixed pickles*
- 2 T finely pounded garlic
- 2 T salt
- ½ c mix of green and black olives
- ½ c small shallots, peeled
- ¼ c chopped green onions
- ½ c olive oil (preferably extra virgin olive oil)
- ½ c juice of sweet mixed pickles
- More salt to taste
Sift bread crumbs, along with paprika and place into a clean jar with a cover (I use a 1 quart jar canning jar). Pour the next 7 ingredients. Shake all the ingredients in the bottle, and adjust the taste by adding more salt or paprika. Let it stay in the ref for a day or two. Add the remaining olive oil and pickle juice.
**I realize that one might have to buy huuuuuuge pickle jars to get the juice. What I’ve done to get “extra mileage” is get a small jar of mixed pickles, put it in a sauce pan, add 1 cup of cane or distilled or apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of sugar. Let it simmer over low heat for about 20-30 minutes. Also as a personal tip, for me the best paprika can be bought from Terry’s or Santi’s.
The thought of making a new Salsa Monja batch after quite some time (I was trying to avoid rice) was tempting as I saw by the roadside the braids and braids of shallots and small garlic heads as we were riding home from Baguio. The size of the shallots were perfect for salsa monja I told my husband! So, I threw discipline out the car window and followed my tastebuds.
They say that Salsa Monja dates back to the Spanish times when nuns prepared it as appetizers or accompaniment to main courses—thus Nun’s Sauce. This is not common like atchara and wouldn’t normally be featured in typical Filipino cookbooks. Thank God for Fe who gave me the book! And if not for Nora Daza, I wouldn’t have discovered this shallot-olive relish that I selfishly enjoy all to myself.
© 2012, Kitchen Kitchie Koo. All rights reserved.