Tuesday, March 30, 2010

MTV Eats

Working for a studio definitely has its perks. I've been "in the industry" for a little over a year and a half now and I've come to really appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting a production together. Caveat: I actually work for a studio rental facility, which means that people/studios/production companies come to check out our buildings and sets, then decide on whether or not they would like to rent the place to film or shoot at. Sometimes we get big budget TV shows or movies filming and other times, and recently it's been more often than not, it's been low budget, webisodes or ultra ultra low budget productions that film. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone has a right to be able to express their artistic abilities in film, but I just prefer the ones with the bigger budget. You wanna know why? Cuz they have catering...hehe...

I covet the words, "Craft services." It's like music to my ears. The bigger the show, usually means the bigger the budget for foods. MTV was here these past few days and here's what I captured in one day's eats:

This was actually the second half of my BLT with avocado sandwich that I ordered from the catering truck parked on the lot. The crew was in kinda early, but talent wasn't to arrive until noon, so this was served around 11ish and technically called "breakfast". Glorious, right? They had an amazing menu of anything and everything breakfasty written on this white board just outside of the truck. I wanted everything on it, but since I had already eaten a breakfast at home, I figured a lunch meal would be best.

Well because it was "breakfast", there was an option for pancakes. Again, I don't want to go into technicalities, but for me, this was lunch and so pancakes looked like it was a good candidate for a "dessert" dish. I know what you're thinking, "Man, lots of quotation marks." But you know what, that's seriously how I was deducing logic in my head. I mean, I couldn't call the pancakes as a breakfast dessert, or could I?

Anyways, I just wanted a little sliver and here's what the cooks came up with:

How sweet were they to slice up strawberries and then dust it off with some powdered sugar! And then if that wasn't sweet enough, I drizzled some syrup on this baby. Mmm...perfect last taste!

Finally, when the 3pm lull came around, craft services has snacks readily available. This consisted of an assortment of nuts, dried strawberries and mango, and then just for the pure salt factor, I placed some salami slices with crackers on my tiny, tiny, plate saucer.

See the pen beside it for effect? Well I wanted to demonstrate how tiny this plate really was. =)

Was it the best craft services I'd ever had? No. But am I complaining? No. Why not? Well, to be honest, it was free. Sad factor, this was considered "breakfast" and so 6hrs later the "lunch" meal would be served. It was rather unfortunate that by the time "lunch" was served, it was past 5pm and I was to be on my drive home. *Sigh*

Nonetheless, I am a fan craft services, so please keep them coming production companies. My belly thanks you in advance.

Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

I immediately thought of this statement when I was plating this meal the other night. I had recently made purchases at A-Grocery, an Asian market in Echo Park and picked up some delightful treats. I had recently read in one of Elise's posts that she thought she probably found the last ever delicata squash in all of New York. News flash miss Rubia, they come a-plenty here in good old Cali. =) So with that in mind, I purchased 2 delicata squash, a kamote, and threw in a sweet potato.

Cleaved in half and baked with a little olive oil and salt/pepper combo, here is what the eats looked like:

Pretty grill marks, huh? Well, they're fakies because I used this pan with ridges that just happened to make "grill" indentions (and brown-ness) on these lovely veggies. Do you think that's what KFC uses for their "grilled" chicken? Haven't tried it, don't want to...

Moving on.

I knew I had to incorporate all these colors somehow, but I didn't know with what. Then my mama reminded me I had left over shrimp in the fridge and needed to be utilized asap before it went bad (or before she cooked it herself). Pan seared the shrimp with my fave, garlic, and then did a rough chop of some romaine lettuce for a variety in color. Shrimp cooked, check. Lettuce cut, check. Squash, kamote and sweet potato diced, check. I threw all the ingredients together in a bowl and it was an orange color explosion!

Well, I guess it's not as dramatic as I made it to be, but look at all the different shade of orange in that bowl. Sprinkled some salt and peppa, then a smidgen of honey mustard dressing for extra sweetness and I called it dinner. =)

p.s. I didn't know what kamute was in English, until just now thanks to the magic of Google. I guess it is another form of sweet potato or yam. What I found odd was that it wasn't orange at all and it wasn't as sweet as the orange sweet potato. Hmm... go figure.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Balls of Meat

Growing up, I always associated meatballs with spaghetti. It was something I craved if we ate out at an Italian restaurant because we never had that at home. So when I started to cook for myself, I googled my way into a pretty bomb meatball recipe. The thing is, I still associated meatballs with spaghetti. But a couple of weekends ago, I visited my friend and her fam bam in Malibu and we had a fabulous dinner that consisted of lamb meatballs, lemon rice and Greek salad. Looks like you can have meatballs sans the spaghetti!

I decided to mimic this dish, except with beef meatballs and Greek salad without feta cheese (lactose intolerance totally kicking in).

Meatballs ingredients:
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • a couple cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1/4 of a grated red onion
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • handful of Italian bread crumbs
  • handful of chopped basil
  • an egg
  • tsp or so of worchestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and then roll one inch or so in diameter meatballs. I cooked these on a flat grill pan to try to get all the meatballs cooked in one schwoop.

Success! Browned balls to perfection!

For the lemon rice, my friend Bianca mentioned these ingredients:
  • cup of white rice (you can probably use basmati rice)
  • cup and a half of water
  • lemon zest from one lemon
  • 1/2 of that lemon juice
  • tsp of olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • chopped parsley for plating

Can you see a bit of the lemon zest? I added a bit more for presentation after fluffing the rice with the chopped parsley. If you can't see the yellow zestiness, perhaps this brown girl needs an actual camera...ahem, little sister Kristine, Ate put this on her bday wish list. Thanks!

Finally, I created my Greek salad with these ingredients:
  • romaine lettuce
  • English cucumbers (this one is because it reminded me of Rachel when I was at the store)
  • tomatoes
  • a combo of different olives from the Vons olive section
  • balsamic vinaigrette
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pretty colors. Me likey.

And here's the combo package:

I only had what was on this plate. Definitely operation moderation. I mean, I snacked a few pieces of pita bread and tomato basil hummus while all this was cooking, so my belly was prepped to eat a well portioned dinner. =) But, I did slather on some of that hummus on top of the meatballs. I learned that from the hummus queen.

p.s. The best thing about this dish, leftovers for a work lunch. Sweet!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My version of "Pinakbet"

It's always hard to cook for one sometimes. I would rather cook for several than for one, so that I may have others to enjoy the foods with, AND to get positive or negative feedback. (Sidenote: That totally reminded me of my MCDB classes...ah the positive and negative feedback loops.) Ok, derailed a bit, but like I said, it's nice to get feedback. Recently it's been my mama who's had to sample some of my eats and she approved of this one.

There was still leftover delicata squash and like Elise, it's now become my favorite squash. It's very flavorful and easy to cook, and cleave in half, but the thing that gets me excited is that the skin peels off really well after it's been baked. So with the delicata in mind, I thought that I could incorporate it with my already peeled and deveined shrimp from the night before. I prepped the shrimp ahead of time for moments just like tonight. What else to add? Well, I had my snow peas and Indian eggplants, so my taste buds were formulating a craving for this dish called pinakbet or pakbet for short.

I believe this might be a Kapampangan and Tagalog dish, but that's only because those are the Flips in my household and that's who I've seen make it. Pakbet normally consists of long string beans, calabasa (the regular orange squash), eggplant, shrimp (and sometimes pieces of pork) flavored with shrimp paste. I wasn't too keen on recreating all of that, so I tailored my pakbet a little.

Here's what I used:
  • 9 medium size peeled and deveined shrimp
  • a handful of snow peas
  • 3 Indian eggplants sliced
  • 1/2 baked delicata squash, diced
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • a smidgen of shrimp paste
  • salt
Here's my prepping of the snow peas and eggplants:

Oh ya, make sure you take off the ends of the snow peas because it tends to be quiet chewy and not the most pleasant of chomping experiences. I love the cute mini eggplant discs...hehe

Easily peel-able delicata...

Then I threw in the crushed garlic (which may actually be more like 2 or 3 cloves) in my wok with hot vegetable oil. I let that simmer a bit and then put the shrimp on. I really was only going to have 8 shrimps, but then with my mama as the taste tester, I put in 9 so that I could have 4 shrimps for dinner tonight and 4 for my lunch tomorrow, plus the one for mama makes 9. Operation Moderation yo!

See the little straggler on the upper right? Ya, he was a mistake, but a pretty good one to keep it fair for my meal tonight and tomorrow. After these were a good pink hue, I took them off the wok and placed the veggies in. I cooked them for a bit before adding the shrimp paste on. I literally added like a thumbnail looking amount in the wok. I didn't want the shrimp paste flavor to be over powering, nor did I want it to be too salty since I added salt to the shrimp, but I did want that pinakbet flavor.

Pretty huh? I plated this over a decently sized portion of steamed white rice and saved the rest for tomorrow's lunch.

This was just the hint of pinakbet flavor I needed. I think my parents were a bit impressed, well maybe not so much impressed, but I think they're proud that I'm trying to revamp some of these Filipino dishes. There's something to be said when the veggies you're biting into are still colorful and crunchy. I feel like veggies are more enjoyable, and to add, flavorful, when it's not all dilapidated and brown, right? That said, I welcome other cultural inspired eats that you've added a slight variation to. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Operation Moderation 1 (Thai inspired)

I'd like to reiterate that the weekend in nor cal was absolutely wonderful! I especially enjoyed spending time with my favorite whities, Elise and Kyle. They are getting married at the end of the summer and I am so honored to be a part of their ceremony. We met up Friday afternoon and carried on conversing for over 8hrs! Impressed? Well, we're pretty bomb like that.

Anywho, E and I were exchanging stories about foods, diet, exercise (or lack there of). And like the Sale girls, Elise shares her passion for food and sometimes lack of moderation and self control. So we devised a plan to power through this problema. We made a bet. Yup, that's right, we have a bet going to see who can be more toned and fit come her bridal shower at the end of May. This is a very friendly competition, purely for motivational reasons and also the prize is a pretty sweet one. The winner gets to be taken to dinner at Tom Colicchio's restaurant Craft.

Upon my return, I decided to whip up a little something from this Thai cookbook I took from my sister, technically it was Ate Pammy's, so it's ok. There was this egg noodle dish with shrimp that looked simple enough, but I didn't bring the list of ingredients with me, so I improvised.

I scrapped the shrimp cuz it would've taken forever to peel and devein. I utilized these frozen scallops instead.

The Asian market I went to had such thrifty finds that I may have gone overboard and basically purchased items the dish didn't really require. This prepared meal was not really the dish in the cookbook.

Here's what I came up with:
  • a clove of crushed garlic
  • a handful of chopped cilantro
  • scallops
  • egg noodles
  • snow peas
  • shredded carrots
  • sides of Indian eggplant and Delicata squash
  • fish sauce to taste
Rando? A little. I placed the garlic with the cilantro in a heated wok with olive oil. Then I placed the scallops and tossed for a bit. I put the snow peas in and then thought, this needs more color, so I started shredding half a carrot over the wok.

I stirred this for a bit and added some fish sauce until my egg noodles were done boiling in the next burner. Here's where I thought I practiced moderation. The egg noodles I purchased came in these 10 individual balls of noodles. The package also said that this was for a serving size of 10. So, since I was making this for my dinner and then lunch the next day, I naturally placed 2 of the noodle balls in the boiling water. But as they were boiling, it looked like it wouldn't be enough to hold me over, so in went an additional noodle ball. Fail? How about we call it a good starting point?

This is what I plated for myself which totally contained 1.5 servings of the noodles. I think that's pretty good for me. Then since I was craving more veggies, I actually cut a piece off my baked delicata squash (1/4 to be exact) and only ONE of my baked Indian eggplants.

Operation Moderation is going to be a slow and steady process. This was pretty good considering the only things I got right from the recipe were the egg noodles, garlic and cilantro. Whatever, it's a work in progress. Also, according to Elise's latest post about being healthy, I could win a fabulous giveaway. A healthy heart, portion control eating and exercise are in my immediate future. Well technically starting now.

Oh and for my leftovers for lunch, I added an extra eggplant cuz the one did not suffice for dinner. I may have gone to bed a bit hungry, but I powered through with an episode of Modern Family on Hulu.

p.s. I rationalized my 1.5 serving of noodles because I actually did one session of a P90X routine that night. Proud? It'll be a while before one can be proud. Day one. =)

Leisurely breakfast at Axis Cafe

Being in San Francisco with my sister always means eating well. That's what we do when we're together. We eat and do our best to be Ladies of Leisure. We achieved this by going to this cafe that Kristine and I often pass by and have been curious to check out.

It used to be rare to be out by where my sister lives in SF and have it be sunny and glorious. But now, it's been awesome coming up for a visit and I've been blessed with sun shiny rays every time. Axis Cafe is kind of nondescript when you drive by it, but inside it's cozy and very inviting. We totally could've sat inside, but the patio was calling our name.

Lady of leisure loungin...

(This may be a contender for new FB profile photo...LOL)

Notice that cup of java next to me, well it's a bit deceiving because when I ordered my soy macchiato with a splash of caramel, I was expecting a humungo cup, but here's what I got.

Tiny Dancer, ey? No problemo. It was still very enjoyable. Kristine had boring iced tea, so therefore, no photo...haha

There's really no branching out for me when I see huevos rancheros on the brunch menu. I feel like if it's on the menu, especially if it's a new place, it just calls my name. So you can guess what I ordered.

Square plate? Of course! And yummy eggs over easy for yolky goodness.

Kristine ordered an even better dish. She went outside the box and took to the tuna tartar immediately. Did it matter that this dish was under the "Starters" part of the menu? Nope dot com.

Lemme tell you, this tartar was bomb diggity! The hearts of palm make a huge difference in flavor. Probably the best tuna tartar I've had to date.

But wait, did you think we were gonna eat our well plated portions as is? Oh no, the Sale girls exercise little to no moderation or self control. Plus, since we're Filipino, we were taken when the waitress called the roasted potatoes, "house fries".

Beautiful! We shared both dishes of course, but it was tough to decide what the last taste would be. I decided on a baked wonton with a scoop of the tartar, but in the end, since we had potatoes left, potatoes it became. (Insert lack of self control.)

Does anyone else do the last taste? I totally started doing it because my cousins Pam and Bernie did it. I don't do it all the time like I used to, but when I'm out, I like to savor all the flavors of my meal and having a last taste lets me do that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This is for Porter

My friend Porter is a dear friend of mine that passionately loves food just as much as I do. We could talk about food all day long, while we're eating, when we're full and then talk about what we'd consume for our next meal. This is why he got along so well living with Ate Pammy and why he's pretty much part of the fam bam. The Sale cousins have approved that Porter's passion for food is equal to theirs and this post is dedicated to him.

Mexican has always been a go-to type of meal and I thought of Porter as I prepared my tacos. This meal initially started with my craving for guacamole, then I thought, "well I already have cilantro, why not throw in some salsa." After a good deal of snacking on chips with melted extra sharp cheddar cheese and guacamole and salsa, I figured the theme could carry over into my lunch for the next day.

I grilled two chicken tenders with some crushed garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika and S&P for lunch the next day. I packed 4 corn tortillas for 2 tacos along with two leaves of romaine lettuce. I also individually packed the guacamole and salsa in separate containers so as not to touch until combined on my tacos.

Here was the result:

Lovely, right? Oh and check out the side of flax seed tortilla chips from Trader Jose's.

Here's a close up:

The next day, I switched it up and had left over basa fish instead of chicken. The fish was also grilled with the same seasonings as the chicken, and to be honest, I think it was so much better. (Sorry no photo, I ate it before I could remember to be a photog...)

Mexican foods, easy and delicious! Es verdad, si?

Sidenote: My Ate Pam has a really good recipe for salsa that requires boiling of the tomatoes and easily blend-able in the Magic Bullet. Ate, do you care to share?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Elise Inspired Eats

One of my best friends Elise has an amazing vegan blog called HungryHungryHippie and I read it religiously. There are food combos in there that I can see myself making with the addition of some real meat unlike the fakies she uses. No offense E. So as I navigate through her list of eats, I've tailored some of my dinners with her in mind. Below are the food combos I've come up with.

Elise has had several posts regarding squash, so when I went to the Asian market the other day, I came across kabocha squash and decied to make use of it. To my surprise, this is the same kind my mama uses for some of her dishes, but growing up I only knew it as a calabasa, plain squash. I salted and peppered like E does and baked in the oven. Fyi, totally encountered the problem of cutting this bad boy in half because the skin's so tough. Solution: I used one of those large Asian cleavers. Very powerful.


Orange goodness!

Dinner combo #1:

I cut up some of the kabocha into cubes and added some sauteed shitake mushrooms and sunburst squash. This was pretty good by itself so I attempted to eat a strictly veeggie dinner. Mission accomplished! I was quite full afterwards. Oh and btw, I totally had more than the cover shot here, so don't worry, my appetite is still in full effect.

Dinner combo #2:

Kabocha cubes tossed with pieces of asparagus as my side.

Sorry I took a bite before the photo opt, but this was my open-face sandwich using the kabocha squash as the spread with spinach and pieces of shredded chix on top with a bit of balsamic vinaigrette as a light dressing. This was pretty delicious and the side asparagus and kabocha kept me very satisfied.

Dinner combo #3:

This may not look like the most appetizing of meals, but this was really really good! This has slices of beef in a bed of romaine lettuce, l.o. kabocha chunks, l.o. black beans with bell peppers and some garlic croutons, lightly drizzled with a honey mustard dressing. I just wanted a hint of sweetness so that's why the honey mustard made an appearance, otherwise, you can probably have it without since the black beans and squash were pretty flavorful already due to them being leftovers. DEEE-licious!

Lastly, I was reading E's post, appropriately titled, "My Salsa" and I was inspired to have avocado in my salad. I knew I really wanted beef for dinner last night so I pan seared this sirloin my parents bought with crushed garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, S&P and a dash of cumin. Then I tossed in the remaining leftover black bleans with chunks of avocado in the same pan after cooking the beef.

So here's dinner combo #4:

Beef, avocado and black beans on a bed of mix baby greens, no dressing = total taste bud satisfaction! Salamat to my wonderful friend for being clever enough so I can piggy back on her creations. =)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Balikbayan Pasalubong Eats!

My parents recently came back from their 40yr high school reunion in the motherland. The word, balikbayan literally means "return to country." (Balik - return, Bayan - country)

Whenever anyone in the family goes anywhere, it's kind of a rule that you bring back with you some pasalubong. This pretty much is translated to "souvenir" that you bring back for other people. In this case, my parents brought tons of edible pasalubong back from the Philippines.

Confession: Pasalubong items, especially when they're food, are my favorite part of traveling.

Can't go wrong when you get these eats from the homeland:

Mini empanadas, purchased literally the day of my parents' departure so when they arrived here in the states, they were still soft and delicious. Filled with chicken and potatoes, similar to the Mexican empanadas you may have had, I think I may have consumed more than the "suggested" amount. I figure, they're "mini" so you're allowed to eat more than normal, right?

Hopia is the package I'm holding above. This sweet delicacy is made up normally of sweet mung beans or ube (a sweet purple root) inside a flaky bread-like consistency. This particular hopia had kundol, described by my mama and grandmother as a sort of sweet melon that they use when it's really ripe and then make into a paste to put inside. Whatever kind of hopia it is, trust it's gonna be a good, light delicious dessert.

Garlic peanuts are a delicious snack of the Kapampangan peoples. I may or may not have woken up in the middle of the night recently to grab a handful and eat them under the covers. Don't judge, sometimes there just isn't anything else that can tame the growling beast. Garlic peanuts has been my go to snack, until we run out of course. In the background of my fave garlic peanuts, San Miguel 3-in-1 coffee makes an appearance. Kristine, Ate P, Ate B and I totally fell in love with these instant coffee packets when we traveled last to the motherland. Thank goodness Mama and her sister remembered my love affair with San Mig. Mmm...instant!

Yup, you read this correctly, "Dried melon seeds". So unlike the American watermelon, the ones from the Philippines have GI-nourmous seeds. Called butol pakwan (seeds of watermelon), like sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, this is a good pastime snack. Don't worry, these aren't the seeds that people spit out when eating watermelon. My mama said that my grandparents used to specifically harvest the seeds and dry them out and store them for future snackage.

Mmmm, watermelon seeds. Mama and I have serious competitions on who can peel the most. One time, I even exercised the will power to not eat the inside of the seeds after peeling. Instead, I saved them and then when I finally had about 30 or so peeled in a pile, I put it all in my mouth in one schwoop! Soooo good! This was definitely an accomplishment. I mean, that's a lot of self control to not eat something so good. Can you tell I'm proud? =)

And this is why I love pasalubong eats.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Food Fair by Diego

Sometimes I think it's hard to branch out and eat at new places you're not normally familiar with, or accustomed to, when you're by yourself. I feel like it's easier to share new experiences when you're with good company.

This was my experience this past rainy Saturday at Food Fair by Diego. My friend Alene and I decided to have a lunch date and she suggested this location. She recently purchased a coupon from Groupon she wanted to utilize, so I was game.

Food Fair is a cute, quaint restaurant, for about 25-20 people, located in a mini-mall a block north of Farmers Market. Cute ambiance and lack of the familiar Saturday lunch goers, allowed for A and I to really take our time and enjoy our meals. There were plenty of delicious platters on the menu, but A and I couldn't take our eyes off the burger combo. So instead of branching out and trying something different, call us boring, but burgers were the feast of the day.

Check out this monstrous baby:

Cooked to medium rare perfection, simplicity is key. This burger was massive dressed with cheddar cheese, fried onions, the staple lettuce and tomato and a side of their in-house chips. No dressing was on this burger, but a side of bbq was plated in a tiny platter for your dipping pleasure.

Also in the background were the extra pickles A and I asked for, plated on a cute little platter of course! Plating is totally key. This burger was so tender and juicy, it didn't need the pickles, but it was nice to have them on the side. LOVE PICKLES! This dish is definitely a good dish to order if you're reluctant to branch out and be bold. Trust there will be a next time. =) Absolute meaty deliciousness! Mmmm...