Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Casual Thank You Dinner

I gave a dinner for my aunt last night to thank her for bringing me my silverware all the way from Manila. I soon realized what a favor that was when I had to bring it back to the apartment. It was heavy. Really heavy. Then, I realized I wouldn't have an assistant to do all the food preparations so I created a simple menu that wouldn't take to long to cook from start to finish, but was still special. I usually serve Cava, as everyone probably knows by now, with some finger food before dinner but not this time because no one in this town drinks. So instead, I served a mild tea at the beginning and end of the dinner. It turned out well I must say.

My four guests included her daughter (my cousin), son-in-law and grandson. I was hoping to cheer them up, in my own way, because they have been going through a rough patch these past couple of months. There are just some years where nothing seems to go right and everything goes wrong. I certainly now how that is. Well, like someone I know said, "The year isn't over yet." So what happens on their way to their car from my apartment after dinner? My nephew skateboards down the road, tripped and cracked his chin open. I got a call at 10:30 pm from his worried mother while they were at the emergency room of the hospital. The doctors weren't able to get all the asphalt out. Nevertheless, he was very brave, not a peep when the doctors injected his open wound with an anesthetic. He got seven stitches and declared, according to his mother, "At least I had a good dinner before this happened." It seems like he will have to be on soup for a couple of weeks. Oh dear. Well, Emilio if it's any consolation, I'll cook you another meal when your ready.

Part of my menu was to make a tart tatin for dessert, which I didn't make because by the time I got home from doing the groceries and making a wrong turn which took me a good hour to find my way back, I didn't have the energy to make dessert. I served ginger snaps and organic "Oreos" with milk instead. The "Oreos" were a hit. I eventually made the tart and so I decided to go ahead and include it in this menu...

Mixed Vegetables

Arugula Salad

Lamb with Garlic Stir-Fry

Steamed Rice

Peach Tart Tatin

Chamomile Tea

Mixed Vegetables

equal amounts:
canned or bottled artichoke hearts, drain and quarter
Kalamata olives, drain
cherry peppers, preserved (from Rainbow grocery) or bottled roasted red peppers, drain and
extra-virgin olive oil

Toss ingredients together. Serve in a bowl with an extra cup for throwing the olive seeds. Place a container of toothpicks next to vegetables.

Arugula Salad

baby arugula and lamb's lettuce
extra-virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
Parmesan cheese, shaved

Toss leaves with oil, then add vinegar. Toss again with Parmesan shavings.

Lamb with Garlic Stir-Fry

450 grams (1 lb) lean lamb steak or fillet
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
2 scallions, white part only, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
1 teaspoon Sichuan (can substitute with black pepper) peppercorns, roasted and freshly ground

for the marinade:
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1.5 teasoons cornstarch

  1. Cut the lamb into thin slices and put in a bowl. Mix in all the marinade ingredients and leave for 20 minutes. Drain marinade and set the lamb aside.
  2. Heat a wok or large frying pan until it is very hot. Add the oil and whe it is slighly smoking add the marinated lamb pieces with just a litle of the marinade. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the scallions, garlic, ginger and black pepper and stir-fry for 4 minutes. If using Sechuan pepper, sprinkle it on the lamb just before serving.

Peach Tart Tatin

  • I used an award-winning ready-made puff pastry dough
  • It's best to use a cast iron pan
  • I peeled the small-sized peaches and placed them directly in the caramel
  • When cooking the butter and sugar, I found there was to much oil and poured it out, leaving the gooey caramel in the pan
  • make sure peaches are ripe or you'll have too much liquid when the peaches are cooking

Friday, August 24, 2007

Au Revoir Manila

I wasn’t planning on having a despedida, but my sister insisted on doing something the night before I left for San Francisco. So she, my mom and my cousins came over around four in the afternoon. We sat and chatted and ate cheese, parma ham and olives, all washed down with a glass of Cava. Then we went to Japantown and had a fantastic dinner care of my future cousin-in-law Raj. I ordered my standard orders when in a Japanese restaurant… sashimi (salmon, saba and hamachi), miso soup and grilled saba (mackarel). The saba was perfectly cooked which is important because a few seconds more on the grill and you’d have a dry and stringy piece of fish. Raj ordered the lapu lapu (grouper) sashimi with a spicy vinegar dipping sauce, which was excellent. According to Raj, who went to school in Japan, the Japanese tourists always order this dish because its relatively inexpensive in Manila and extremely expensive in Japan. So we ordered another round and soon regretted it after stuffing ourselves with the rest of the dishes we ordered. The uni (sea urchin) was unsually fresh and sweet, not normally my favorite dish, but more than tolerable this time. Everyone else was raving about it.

After dinner we went to an Irish pub called Murphy’s for drinks. The Irish cocktail was really good, I had three! It had Franjelico, hot chocolate and Grand Marnier, topped with whipped cream. Yum! I texted some friends at the last minute and three more people joined us. Two of them were still in a meeting and one had to wake up early for a motocross competition. We had a fun time, especially when Marco showed up after his late night massage.