I’ll always admit to being a foodie. Chalk it up to growing up with gourmets on one side of the family, and down-to-earth cooks on the other, teaching, by showing, how to love food in all its iterations, flavors and textures. Eating food is one thing, though; preparing it is another. And, as I have always been telling myself, I harbor a bit of a frustrated cook inside of me. Chalk that up to mom keeping the TV tuned to the Asian Food Network every time I am in Antipolo, and the fact that there is an awesome, awesome herb garden outside the house that isn’t as used as often as it should be.
And Iron Chef. Always blame Iron Chef. Because Iron Chef is always awesome.
pic via tvtropes.org
Since unemployment and un-enrollment have given me all the time in the world, I have spent the past two days walking back and forth between the kitchen and the herb garden, seeing what I can use with what, so that I might just make the family’s evenings a little more entertaining. Hence these little projects.
Project I: Thai stir-fried beef with basil
Beef, garlic, chili, basil. Almost stripped the Thai basil plants bare because the dish is more awesome when you don’t scrimp on the herb. Easy peasy, as long as you have enough basil to toss in.
No pic though, because it was gobbled up too quickly by a family that had too light a lunch. Sadness, but also delicious happiness.
Project II: Fried lemongrass chicken with cucumber and tomato vinaigrette salad
Too much lemongrass in the garden, so I looked around for another way to use it instead of steeping it all to make a huge batch of iced tea (which is fine and all, but the taste gets old when you’ve been drinking it for years). Figured I’d use it, along with some garlic, honey, vinegar and fish sauce (patis) to marinate some chicken, then decide how I’m cooking it later on.
Fresh from a day in the fridge
Was planning on grilling it, but some miscommunication on what time people would be home for dinner meant that I didn’t have enough time to prepare a fire. Decided to fry it instead so that it could feed four hungry people without having to be cooked for at least an hour. I think some of the flavor was lost in the process, which is sad since lemongrass has a pretty subtle flavor, especially in the face of the other things I used for the marinade.
Still awesome, though
Decided to serve them with a quickly put-together salad made up of things I found in the garden and in the fridge: cucumbers and some small tomatoes that grew near the herb garden, with a dressing of olive oil, white vinegar, dayap lime, a few coriander leaves and lots of pepper.
Stuff from the garden
Sigh, vinaigrettes: easy as hell to make, but they go with pretty much every salad vegetable you can think of. Plus, changing the type of oil and/or vinegar lets you go crazy with whatever flavor you want: Asian, European, etc.
I think they’re called currant tomatoes, but I’m not really sure
Oh well, lesson learned: plan grilling waaaaay ahead.
Project III: Pork in rosemary-infused oil
Remembered tasting very awesome roast pork with rosemary at Chelsea’s in Podium, several years ago. Remembered that we still had a rosemary plant or two growing in some corner of the garden. Decided to find out for myself how else to get all that aroma and flavor into the meat without having to marinate it overnight, and to see if I can cook it the way people make lechon kawali, so I decided to stick several crushed sprigs’ worth of leaves into a bottle of cooking oil and leave it for two days, and see if it works. Cat kept me company all throughout the process.
Freshly-picked rosemary with cat
Rosemary and just-cleaned bottle with cat
Rosemary and bottle with cat competing for attention by threatening to push stuff off the table
Rosemary leaves floating in oil with cat present in spirit (actually, sleeping on the floor beside this table)
Double-fried the pork in the oil to make sure it was crispy enough before serving. True enough, rosemary makes even lechon kawali taste all kinds of gourmet awesome.
Unfortunately, no pic of the finished product, for some reason. Odd, I knew I took a pic or two of it somewhere…