When the Cookie Crumbles

So most (if not all) of my food-related posts involve my triumphs in the kitchen and a little bit of #instafilter. It can be really satisfying to see the fruits of your labor pay off in the form of wide smiles, a tasty meal, and a good gram’. Yet, sometimes, kitchen mishaps do occur. I was scrolling through some old photos the other day, and I noticed a couple of photos documenting how spectacularly far off the end result was from the desired outcome. Exhibit A and B:

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At the top, we have the supposed “Cheesy Baked Hash Brown Patties” that just did not hold it shape (I’m still convinced this was a recipe flaw), and the second was just a disastrous attempt at a pastitsio, a Greek lamb pasta bake dish that not only spectacularly fell apart when I took it out of the oven, it was borderline inedible because I was too heavy handed with the cinnamon.

Kitchen failures do happen from time to time – but amidst the trash of inedible food waste caused by a series of poor decision, comes some fairly valuable lessons about cooking, and life in general.

Cooking Lesson 1: Be very careful with cinnamon – especially if you’re not planning to put it with baked goods. Otherwise, your facial expression wouldn’t be too far off from people who attempted the cinnamon challenge.

Life Lesson 1: Sometimes less is more – focus on doing something right, rather than doing lots of things.

Cooking Lesson 2: Make sure you squeeze dry the shredded potatoes before you attempt to construct a hash brown, otherwise the water content from the potatoes will wash the cheese out, leading to a puddle of watery cheddar on the pan tray that took a lot of scrubbing to come out (the instructions / video did not include this step).

Life Lesson 2: Don’t always believe what you see – think if a statement makes sense before following it.

Guess the crumbs taste good even when the cookie crumbles (as long as they don’t fall to the floor).

 

 

Travel Logs: Greeking Out!

 

Greece – home to a remarkable ancient civilization, a majestic acropolis in the capital, beautiful islands, and incredible food. This past week has been quite the journey. We scaled the cliffs of Santorini, roamed through the monasteries of Meteora, and explored the ruins of the acropolis. I also finally understand the real color tone of a “Blue Sky” (see images below).

 

The highlight of the trip? Watching the stacked white buildings of Santorini. It’s quite remarkable when you consider that they are actually producing their own wines and produce, despite the fact that the climate of the island is mostly hot and arid. Something to be said about the ability of volcanic soil to create enough little pockets of grapes for them to have a thriving wine industry.

The second highlight of the trip? Taking a 5-hour train ride each way from Athens on the same day to visit the monasteries of Meteora. Fun fact – Game of Thrones apparently created one of the set pieces out of Meteora. The life of ascetic monks can be quite the cliffhanger (no pun intended). Some of them used to get up to the monasteries via nets that would be pulled up by a pulley!

Besides the rich tapestry of history, landscape and architecture, Greece is also home to an incredibly array of flavors – from delicious appetizers such as fried cheese and honey, to a vast array of seafood, lamb and pork dishes, moussaka, and of course, the all ubiquitous gyros. Beautiful use of spices and herbs – shoutout to the cinnamon in the moussaka and the oregano in many of the dishes.

One of the more interesting facts about the gyros that I learnt was that it became especially popular during the Greek debt crisis, because of its affordability and nutrition value. It was something that I didn’t quite realize until I was actually there, and realize that for €3, you can get a wrap that will fill you right up.

All in all, a fairly good trip I’d say. Of course, over the next few weeks I have made it my personal mission to try and replicate the Lamb Kleftiko (meatballs), and the Moussaka. Always wanted to dabble my hands in a little bit of Greek cuisine – we’ll see if that turns out well!

Class Pas(ta)

When an old friend decides to drop into town after approximately 4 years, there’s only one way to properly welcome her back to Boston – by inviting our mutual friends over and teaching them how to make pasta! I didn’t have time to cook the whole dinner myself. I wanted to take the opportunity to show my friends how to make fresh pasta from scratch. Pasta, in all honesty, is one of the most incredibly easy things to make from scratch. With nothing more than flour, eggs, salt, a dash of olive oil, and some patience, you can create some truly incredible dishes, from scratch and super tasty! A how-to video by Basics with Babish is all you need to get started! (his videos are incredible – really inspires me to be a full time professional and full time chef).

It was quite simple really – once you’ve mixed the dough and let it rest, you use the pasta machine and watch the magic happen! There’s a rather ‘zen’ element involved in making pasta (I promise those were genuinely happy faces), and the fact that the pasta was the first dish to be finished is a testament to our masterchef-abilities. My favorite part of the entire pasta making class? The fact that everyone had a great time making it! I thought it was quite inspiring that everyone found it easy (it really is) and fun! As an added bonus, I got to sip on a little bit of extra wine and catch a breather from running around the kitchen.  It’s a little bit like work – there’s an upfront cost to investing in some of your colleagues, taking the time to nurture and teach them the ropes of the job. Once they are ready however, you empower them with the appropriate opportunities, and watch wonderful things unfold!

Featured below: the whole dinner crew, and the wonderful food everyone made!

Regular Expressions in Meal Prep

I have come to appreciate the geometry of takeout containers. They’re quite stackable.

Anyhow – a couple of meal prep ideas from the interwebs!

On the left is a minced meat and wanton noodle recipe found here! It’s pretty addictive, especially if you fry the minced pork to get it real nice and crispy.

Credits go to Tasty for their incredible food videos – Japanese Katsu with Curry on the right (recipe here) and Chicken and Rice (recipe here).

Travel Logs: Laonging Around

Last winter, per the Tan-family tradition of an annual family reunion (it alternates between a foreign destination and our homeland, Malaysia), we decided to pay our less-popular South East Asian neighbor a visit. Laos is a fairly fascinating place – it’s been under the communist regime for the past couple of decades. Yet, it still contains a society that is rich in culture and religion. The buddhist monks play a large role in the cities, and their presence and influence can be felt. For example, every morning, the monks come out of the temple in order to get food offerings from the people. It was quite the sight.

Anyhow – just wanted to share a couple of snapshots to remind us of the beauty of golden pagodas, temples, and copious amounts of sticky rice. Featured in the photos below: Luang Prabang Royal Palace, Pha That Luang and an assortment of Laotian cuisine.

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On iCloud Backups and Family

So I’ve finally managed to move my old laptop’s backup over to my new device, and I couldn’t resist flipping through my old photos. Oh boy – it’s been a real long time since my Photos app cooperated with me. It was like going back in a time machine, couple of days at a time. I’ve come to really appreciate the ability to store roughly 20,000 photos from over a period of 9 years. That being said, I’m also sorely reminded of my younger brother Nick, whose currently a whopping 3,000 miles away. Admittedly, it’s a little better than the 10,000 miles that separates my parents and I, but not by much…

My brother, like me, decided to get as far away from home as he possibly could, the moment he could. However, that probably sums up the similarities between our life choices and aspirations. While he enjoys the mountains and mild rains of the pacific northwest, I enjoy the distinctly northeast seasons, be it the blistering cold winters, or warm blue-skied summers. While he enjoys the certainty of proofs and solutions in mathematics, I enjoy the perspectives and uncertainty in International Relations and Economics.  There is however, one redeeming factor that connects us as brothers. Our joint passion for food and cooking. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of his culinary choices (banana wrapped bacon? seriously?!), he is one talented cook, and I really draw inspiration from his bold choices from time to time.

Ladies and Gents, I present to you, Chef Nick and his many adventures! Looking forward to many more East / West coast collaboration!