After trash talk, let’s talk tira-tira (scraps; leftovers).  I wouldn’t say I’m a good cook, only that I have a keen sense of taste and likes to experiment.  I try to imagine flavors and it helps that I read a lot and acknowledge that there is a science to these things.  There was a time I couldn’t get enough of watching all the food shows and chefs on the Asian Food Channel (I like Restaurant Makeover, too) and Food Network. What can I say, experimenting appeals to me.  It is a hit or miss kind of thing so I find it economical if I do test kitchen work on leftovers!

There are days when we end up having a refrigerator full of small bowls, plates and plastic containers of leftovers that I took to “tweaking”.  Working with leftovers is convenient - there’s way too little of one thing or none at all, so you adjust, substitute, or cheat hehehe and no one’s the wiser! You don’t really know what you end up with!  Figuring out how much of this ingredient needs the other I do on the fly.  Not very scientific I know.  There was a famous chef I got to work with (as PR for the restaurant, not kitchen work) who creates five star dishes with a scribe by his side.  He booms out “one teaspoon salt” then tastes whatever it is and booms out again “no make that two” and so on.  I don’t have an assistant : )

Sometimes you have a relative or friend abroad who sends stuff you wouldn’t know what to do with (besides Spam, Libby’s corned beef and Kraft Mac’n’Cheese) like canned water chestnuts and lima beans.  I just Google or go to All Recipes, Food Network or whatever food blog came up on the results list.  You just type the basic ingredient or foodstuff you’ve got (be specific, some brands have websites with recipes) and troll through.   You just have to be a little adventurous.

It’s better if you have a lot of condiments.  I stock bottled sun dried tomatoes (unless I am able to buy the ones at the sandwich and deli counter inside Shopwise), sambal,  capers, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, dried herbs, chili garlic paste, olives, EVOO (channeling Rachel Ray), chorizo, Yamasa or Kikkoman soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, McCormick , Lee Kum Kee,  Asian Gourmet, Hunt’s sauce and mixes and Knorr flavor cubes.   It would be nice to have real soup stock and natural flavor base but since I am just tweaking leftovers, these do the trick in less time.  

Last Thursday we had a small bowl of tuna; a quarter of dry cheese (if you don’t keep it in the foil pack it gets that way, brothers are woefully amiss at putting away foodstuff properly); capers (I need to use as much as possible because a friend sent me a huge bottle and I’m the only one who likes it on pasta and salads); and half a lemon, most of the yellow part of the rind gone (used for a batch of  lemon crinkles). 

I sautéed the tuna with lots of crushed garlic in butter and lemon juice, tossed in the capers with white pepper then added evaporated cooking milk (one can).  When it got a little thick I added grated lemon rind (a teaspoon), fresh basil leaves (just because we have pots of it and I like it) then poured the lot over boiled macaroni pressed into a Pyrex pie plate.  The dried up cheese was grated and sprinkled on top then baked for 10 minutes in a 200◦ oven. It didn’t really bind but that’s all right and the top was crusty with cheese (there were browned bits stuck on the Pyrex) and tuna flakes.  The lemon took the fishiness out and the basil made for a “clean” taste.  The capers’ sour and salty taste was perfect for the milk (no cream, plus I figured it is healthier and lighter without).  It was good.  I had to make a fresh one the next day. No leftovers!. : )  

P.S.  If you noticed photo 1 of the tuna was half covered with cling wrap.  I had to shoot outside for light and didn't want to advertise to buzzing insects that might get a whiff and investigate hehehe.  The yellow roses pic I had on file - took this years ago shooting piggyback on a photo shoot with a preset camera, so it still passes for tira-tira, photo version hehehe!


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