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behind-the-scenes of the first lunch I cooked for friends.

Several weeks ago...

I was assigned to bring in picnic food. Because cooking is a hobby of mine, Matty was imagining that I'd bring something really nice. Alas, it was short notice and I was only able to bring donuts. Sorry! Anyway, I told him that it takes around five hours for me to prep a picnic meal that would pass his no-adobo-no-sinigang specifications and does not involve sandwiches. The five-hour period is from shopping to mise-en-place to cooking to cooling the food down to packing the food and to cleaning up the kitchen. So next time I'd be assigned to bring in the food, I should be told a day in advance... Or an evening in advance.

Last Thursday...

It was a holiday and there was nothing for me to do at home. I wanted to try baking chocolate crinkles but I didn't have the right chocolate. I chanced upon Santi's when I drove to Sta Rosa and it had just what I was looking for: discs of chocolate milk couverture! That made me so happy that when I got home, I started prepping cookies right away!

first batch of chocolate crinkles

Last Friday...

Looked like the guy remembered. I was told that evening that the trip to Caliraya was a go and I was to cook a picnic lunch for six people. So off to the grocery I went to buy ingredients. I didn't have a recipe book with me at that time so I decided to cook what I've tried before; at least with those dishes I'd know what ingredients to buy. I threw in some wheat bread and lots of water in my shopping cart as well, just in case nobody else brought any food and we'd be in a place with no restaurants. 

When I got home, I started to prep right away because the cooked food needed to cool down before they'd be placed in the fridge. Thank goodness for my trusty chef's knife and my favorite cutting board... Chopping veggies and meat was a breeze, even with the smaller cuts (i.e., brunoise for the garlic and the onions). I was chef and steward at the same time, so while something was simmering, I was washing pots and pans... Or whisking the salad dressing. Yes, the dressing was made from scratch. :) 

Everything was ready five hours after I bought the picnic lunch ingredients.

Bright and early last Saturday...

I just realized how much stuff I was bringing in when I started loading them in my car's trunk! A shopping bag with spoons and forks, plates, tissue paper, and cups; a cooler with bottles of water, a bag of ice, bottled iced tea, and lunch; plus my box of chocolate cookies. I just missed loading my tent (no more space in the trunk) and a picnic mat (I don't have one). My kite, my tripod, and my Frisbee were placed inside the trunk along with my gym bag containing my camera gear and my swimming gear. Basically, I looked like I was about to go on a week-long vacation rather than a day trip to the lake. It took two guys to help me load the food into Val's car. Yeah, that's how prepared I was this time around.

On the way to Caliraya, I described lunch to Sonya, Mai, and Matty (who's driving his car), telling them to wait until they've tasted the meal before they pronounced judgment on my cooking. Val, Zia, Sylvestre, and Alpha (in Val's car) had no idea at all what lunch would be. 

Saturday lunch...

I was going for contrasts in tastes and textures for lunch, which is why the menu included:
     - Risotto with parmesan cheese and shiitake mushrooms
     - Beef and cucumber salad (the dressing included beef jus, chilis, and calamansi)
     - Chocolate crinkles, for dessert
     - Lemon iced tea and water

Weird combination, I know, but here's the thing: the tanginess of the salad dressing countered the milky nature of the parmesan cheese; the crunch of the cucumber was there as contrast to the smoothness of the risotto; the umami of the beef complemented the earthy tones of the mushroom. 

Oh my goodness, I've just become as fussy as a real chef! 

Unfortunately for me, I couldn't serve the lunch hot because the microbiologist in me was more concerned with my friends' tummies not getting sick than the food's serving temperature while in the great outdoors.

Over lunch, I was happy that my friends appreciated the food that I prepped for them. Good job, audience! Thank you, thank you! 

I have to learn how to cook more meals for future picnics! Let me see what I can do with fish fillets...

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