Mai fun, no fun

It’s been a while since pancit (Filipino version of stir-fry noodles) has made it into our dinner rotation. Blessings to whomever had the brilliant idea to mass market freshly roasted rotisserie chickens. With 4 kids in tow and a busy schedule, it has saved me on several occasions. Not to mention, it’s a GREAT shortcut. So with a chicken in my cart, I grab some of my favorite veggies: sugar snap peas, pea pods, red bell peppers. Now no two Filipino families seem to make the same recipe for pancit – which literally means “noodles” in Filipino cooking. From what I could gather from my family is that it’s similar to fried rice, use whatever you have in your refrigerator as your added ingredients to your noodles. For example, I love adding bean sprouts too, but I know it’s not a traditional item added to this dish. I add them anyway. Walking down my local Fry’s grocer I noticed that the international food section doesn’t seem to have any pancit noodles – the yellow ones that look like chow mein but are thinner and flatter and evidently, more forgiving when working with them. Despite the lack of selection, I do happen to see that they at least have mai fun rice noodles. These are often used in Chinese cooking in a dish you probably know as Singapore noodles. While these noodles are very popular, I have one little worry in the back of my mind… I’m thinking that hopefully I cook it right and that these seemingly delicate, cellophane noodles don’t turn to slime. Oh, and just for variety, I went ahead and picked up some chow mein noodles to blend in. Little did I know that my selections would be my teach me a lesson or two!

Lesson #1: Ok, mai fun, yes, no fun when it comes to photographing them. To the naked eye, it’s a delicate yarning of opaque white noodles, which I thought would be an interesting texture to try and capture. My biggest challenge? Well, capturing a shot that wasn’t, simply put, a big white blob. Not to mention, waning afternoon light into the evening was placing undue pressure on me to get a shot, ANY shot that didn’t resemble a glowing ghost mound on my plate. In the end I kept circling my subject, clicking the shutter at varying angles until I got what I was looking for. I switched also from my fixed focus 50mm lens to my macro lens. I think perhaps that the 50mm was letting in too much light and overexposing the subject, whereas my macro didn’t quite yield that same result. Not sure why. I’ll have to dig into the technical aspects of my camera lenses at another time. I also realized that based on the configuration of my kitchen, my stainless steel fridge acted as a nice reflector to casting subtle light onto my subject. Neat little BoNus!
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Lesson #2: Chow mein… no, it’s not the noodle I hoped it would be. Yes, I over did it. I hit it with hot water, thinking that I could just soften them up enough and then toss them in to the pan to be fried. Somehow, I soaked it too long and the noodles at the bottom became one glutinous mess! Ugh. So thinking that I could fix it by breaking it up and tossing them in with the rice noodles…. Uh… well it nearly ruined my fine looking rice noodles as they seemed to be attracted to these yellow “gooey” balls of chow mein. I plucked out what I could. It left my dish with a few little clumps among my otherwise harmonious blend of stir-fried veggies, shredded rotisserie chicken and sea of, yes, non-slimy rice noodles. Hardly noticeable according to my eager eaters – who LOVE stir-fried anything. When I think back about this little project, I’ll remember #1: they (the sampling crew) thought that my little mishap was scrambled eggs in the dish, #2: while nothing was left in the wok, I did get comments that while it was good it simply wasn’t what Lola (grandmother) makes. Oh well! And finally #3: the dish in retrospect tasted mighty fine, just not very food photogenic!

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Garbage Day

Garbage day is Monday.  How often does one go through the refrigerator cleaning it out in anticipation of  the traveling dumpster’s early morning arrival; and find ALL this food that you haven’t eaten yet???  On this particular Sunday I came across a couple of mangos that I’m sure I bought earlier in the week, I think. Still smooth-skinned, slightly firm and changing from an olive green to a muted orange-brown hue.  I’m thinking, “must still be good” – although not very photogenic at this point.  Dig around the ice box a little more… A few pork chops pulled from the freezer to thaw… Check the pantry for some grains… yep, looks like we have dinner for the next day!

Few items from the Pantry

Pork chops with a mango chutney – at least that’s what I called it.  Below I used the late afternoon Western light diffused through our patio. To add some color to my white dishes, I added the multi-colored cloth beneath.  I wish I would have caught the “fleck” of pork that’s sitting on the mango, but oh well!  It’s all in the details from making a good picture, great, right?  The dish by the way, was just yummy.  The kids and hubby ate it all up!

I Like’m Sloppy

Sloppy joes that is…

Sloppy joes topped with coleslaw

SuMMer, BarBecues, bEaCh, SanD, LaZy days, FAMILY.

All images that come to my mind when craving sloppy joes. Growing up I never knew this messy goodness could be so good. Born and raised in the US by newly immigrated Filipinos, I only knew the makings of sloppy joes via a can of Manwhich™ and a pound of ground beef! And truthfully, I still like that rendition… I would actually eat it with steamed white rice, because as everyone knows… everything is good with rice… 😉   But ohhhh!! the joy of a homemade, simmering hot batch of meaty heartiness that generations have made and perfected over the years… Now that’s tasty!

After summer vacations of careful observation and repeated requests for the recipe, I finally have it committed to memory. To some it probably isn’t as good as when grandma makes it, but it IS pretty darn good… Enough so, that my husband and kids gobble it all down!

Dining on the Road: Scottsdale

On a recent trip to Scottsdale, Arizona I found myself without my camera. Oh no! Not to worry, I figure I’ll try out the camera on my iPhone. Now I still have the iPhone 3GS version. Still a pretty good camera though – impressive.  I’ve heard the iPhone 4 camera is amazing.  Anyway, we found this cute little cafe in Old Towne Scottsdale across from Nordstroms. What a treat! First off, love that there are soooo many non-chain restauranteurs in Scottsdale. Not that McDonalds, Chipotle or Five Guy Burgers aren’t any good.  Those are some of my staples when I’m on the run.  I just enjoy dining at unique little eateries to see what local chefs and bakers are coming up with these days. For lunch, I ordered a curry chicken salad with golden plump sun raisins. Very fresh, very good – nice blend of sweetness and curry spice. Great texture! Tender chicken coupled with the crisp crunch of greens and toasted almond slivers.  And of course, I had to wash it down with a Mexican Coca-cola. My hubby ordered a chicken panini. I would have taken a pic, but by the time I remembered, he’d already scarfed down most of it. He did save me a bite. Tender grilled chicken, melted cheese, roasted red peppers and onions with some kind of aoili sauce all on a toasted, grill marks and all, sourdough bread. Now I know why it was gone so fast. To finish our meal, we split a coconut caramel cookie bar with the biggest dark chocolate chips I’d ever seen, nestled throughout. Quite the treat!

Chicken Curry Salad, Golden Sun Raisins and Toasted Almonds

 

In My Kitchen: Lamb, Cherries and Mint

Lamb Chops with Cherries, Balsamic Vinegar and Mint

Well, I’ve never made lamb before. I love it when it’s prepared right. I, personally have just never had the nerve to cook it. If you’ve ever had bad lamb, you’d understand my hesitation. I was shopping the other day and came across some really good looking lamb chops. As I stood over the case looking at them, I wondered, “Can I? and Would it taste good?”  Needless to say, I bought them and I figured, “Well, it will be an adventure. If it’s horrible, I’ll pull out the mac ‘n cheese!”

Searching the web, I found a recipe that looked to complement lamb’s savory meatiness with a balanced sauce of cherry sweetness and balsamic tartness.  For lack of availability, I substituted the sour cherries with frozen dark sweet cherries (thawed) and omitted the 1 tablespoon sugar in the recipe.  This recipe was so incredibly easy to make. My family LOVED it. The lamb was tender and delicate in flavor.  The mint offers a fresh “pop” to the dish.  I highly recommend this recipe the next time you want to impress.

Lamb Chops with Cherry Balsamic Sauce and Mint (courtesy of Epicurious.com)

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) pitted sour cherries (1/2 lb)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 8 (3/4-inch-thick) rib lamb chops (2 lb total), trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallot (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Stir fresh cherries together with sugar and macerate while browning chops. If using frozen cherries, stir with any juices and sugar and thaw, about 1 1/2 hours.

Pat lamb dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté 4 chops, turning over once, about 6 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil. Cook and transfer remaining 4 chops in same manner.

Pour off fat from skillet and add remaining tablespoon oil. Heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté shallot, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add cherries with juices, broth, and vinegar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits, then reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add butter and 2 tablespoons mint, stirring just until butter is melted.

Spoon sauce over chops and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons mint.