Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Meatballs - SE Asia style

Last night’s dinner was intended to be stir-fried flank steak and long beans, but in the adventure that is grocery shopping in Bangkok there was no flank steak to be found. D and I checked at the meat counter where we were getting our ground chicken for the kebabs, nothing. We checked the pre-packaged meat section, nothing. We even asked the very nice women working at the Aussie meat counter, who looked at us and repeated, “flank steak,” then had a brief discussion in Thai and went off to find someone who could speak more English. The very nice manager told us to look at the other meat counter where we had already been. *Sigh*… Apparently, it was not meant to be. D suggested making meatballs with the ground beef and pork we had purchased to make meatloaf, since we probably had more than we needed anyway. I had forgotten my cheat sheet of how many grams in a pound and was too stubborn and embarrassed to just ask for “1/2 pound.”

I wasn’t completely sure what kind of meatballs I wanted to make since this was an “on the fly” kind of a meal. Pork balls and fish balls are a big street food item, and I remembered a conversation with my mom about them. She had made some out of Hot Sour Salty Sweet. Since, I stupidly left that cookbook at home, I was on my own. One of my new favorite combinations is fish sauce and soy sauce, learned from what quite possibly could be one of the best beef marinates ever, from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. (I’ve included it below, so you can try it too) They turned out to be quite tasty, if I do say so myself. This is a very “unscientific” recipe, but hey! It’s like Jamie Oliver!

Meatballs – SE Asia style

½ pound ground pork (these could be all beef, no problem)
½ pound ground beef
½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Thai chili, minced (substitute Serrano, Jalapeno, or even some chili flakes)
3 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
good chunk of ginger, grated (I used the small holes)
healthy pinch of salt
10 grinds of black pepper
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped (this is approximate)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into balls (I made them small golf ball size) and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, and then crank up the broiler. Broil for a few minutes to brown on top. Enjoy!

Beef Stir-Fry Marinade from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen
Enough for ¾ pound beef

1 teaspoon cornstarch
¾ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 ½ teaspoons fish sauce
1 ½ teaspoons light (regular) soy sauce

In a shallow bowl, combine the cornstarch, sugar, pepper, fish sauce, and soy sauce and stir to mix. Add the beef called for in the recipe, turn to coat the meat evenly, and set aside to marinate while you ready the remaining ingredients for the stir-fry.

Monday, March 26, 2007

FZQ's Chicken Kebabs

Ground meat has taken shape as the theme of this week’s menu. Last night, I tried out friend (and fellow food lover) FZQ’s recipe for patty-style Chicken Kebabs. The recipe was appealing since my barbeque is packed away with 99% of our stuff (I miss you BBQ!), although I’m sure these would delicious cooked on the grill.

I altered the recipe slightly (more due to the fact that some things are just harder to come by here than anything else) substituting fresh mint for the dried and sprinkling in some chili powder. (I don’t know if the jalapeno’s we managed to find here are wimpy or my heat tolerance has gone up a lot, but I had eaten a slice of one, seeds and all, and got nothing, so in went the chili powder!) FQZ served them up with a spicy cilantro sauce that sounded great, but due to the fact that I have no blender and my food processor is packed away with the barbeque I decided to whip up a yogurt sauce instead. The chicken kebabs were delicious and something I would make again in an instant.

Yogurt Sauce

1 little carton plain yogurt
¼ cup finely diced cucumber, peeled
1 tablespoon chopped mint
juice of one lime (lemon would be delicious, they are imported & expensive here!)
salt & pepper to taste

Mix ingredients in a bowl. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes for the flavors to come together.

I served the patties up with Dave's Bow Ties with Pesto, Feta & Cherry Tomatoes and a salad. Delicious! Tonight - Meatballs!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pasta is your Friend - Take 1

On Sunday night, D and I had our lone Thai friend Nong (aka our real estate agent) over for dinner. During our house hunting, Nong had asked me if I would show her some cooking tips, once she found out that I like to cook. I wasn’t 100% sure of what to make, since she wanted some more Western-type dishes. I remembered when I had lunch with her on our move-in day, we had talked about what kind of food she liked or didn’t like. She said she didn’t eat beef and didn’t like Mexican food (carne asada went out the window!), but was open to other things. She claimed that she wasn’t such a good cook. I finally settled on making Pasta Puttanseca, since it tastes like you’ve spent hours on it, but it only takes like 20 minutes to make. D also pointed out that there are lots of Italian restaurants here, so the chances were good she would probably like it. I had the beginnings of some Italian bread in the fridge, so the menu shaped up nicely to include the bread and a big salad. Fast forward to D and I arriving home from the grocery store 15 minutes before Nong was due to arrive. I shaped up the loaves of bread, while D prepared a pupu platter of cheese and salami. Luckily, Nong ended up being late, so we had time to get the bread in the oven and make the salad. All in all, it was a nice evening and the pasta was salty, spicy and delicious!

Pasta Puttanesca adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe
makes an excellent “I’m tired” weeknight dinner

1 pound dried pasta (I used spaghetti, penne is also really good)
1-2 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped in half
6 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes (add more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 14 oz cans chopped tomatoes
1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, chilies, anchovies, and oregano in the olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the capers and olives and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Toss the pasta and sauce together, sprinkle the basil over top. Enjoy!

First Watercolor

Red Awning

I spent some time yesterday trying out my new watercolors. It is quite fun, I have to say, and nice to get my hands dirty and away from the computer. It is called "The Red Awning" based on a photo I took in Bangkok's Chinatown.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Walk the Walk

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people talk about all the great ideas they have or the things that they want to do, without any action behind their words. The old "talk the talk, and walk the walk." Well, I have to admit I've been a bit guilty of the talking without the walking as of late, in regards to my freelance portfolio. So, after some new additions, bio writing, multiple issues with the domain, and moments of self-doubt, here is my (work-in-progress) portfolio!

Studio 0202

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Mini O'Reilly's

Mini Seafood Market

I’ve been in a creative buzz this week (and my poor blog is suffering). Not surprisingly, our move to Bangkok has given me lots of inspiration. (And it probably doesn’t hurt that I don’t have a job to go to everyday that uses a lot of it up) I’ve been working on my photography, and lately I’ve been obsessed with doing this which makes your photos look like they are little models. I joked with D that I spend my time trying to make digital models look like the real world, and making the real world look like little models. Maybe I’ve watched the Wallace & Gromit movie one too many times…

I’ve also been cruising a lot of artists & illustrators websites, with some new finds (thanks Big Bun!) and some forgotten favorites. I’ve been drawing more lately. It’s nice to get away from the computer a bit. I’ve been working on a new style, and created a new world called “Verde City” inspired by the Bangkok skywalks, my love of signs and 50’s furniture, and the little environmentalist in me. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

Welcome to Verde City

The Great Shave Ice Mishap
(click on picture to see them bigger)

I hit up the art store yesterday to try some new stuff (watercolors!), so more will be forthcoming!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Long Weekend

Last week felt like it was in fast-forward. D arrived home safely from her trip on Tuesday evening, and the days after all blurred together. I didn’t do such a great job planning the menu for the week, since I had been grazing on leftovers for much of the previous weekend. I did make this delicious pasta and some tasty cinnamon raisin bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. D arrived home on Friday, announcing that Monday was a holiday! Yay!

We tried to enjoy some “culture” in our new city; only to discover that the place we wanted to go was closed for the holiday. So, we wandered around exploring some of the side streets and ended up having dinner at Tamarind CafĂ© (warning: annoying music on the website!), a vegetarian restaurant. We shared several appetizers (Sesame Falafel, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Cheese & Tofu Croquettes) and two of the salads (Green Papaya Salad, Beetroot & Mango), and it was quite nice not having to be so vigilant, hunting for any hints of shrimp in the Thai dishes.

Monday we hit the grocery store for this week’s menu, which was crazy crowded (at least compared to my mid-day shopping excursions), and spent the afternoon puttering around the house.

This week’s menu:

Lemongrass Chicken (I used this recipe)
Stir-fried Veggies
Garlicky Noodles with Maggi & Butter (from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen)

Bun with Stir-fried Beef (aka Vietnamese Noodle Salad)

Tofu Scramble
Black Beans (if I can find them!)

Garlicky Oven Roasted Chicken
Asparagus & Shiitake Mushroom Stir-fry