It took time to warm up to the food of the Philippines when I first moved there, but after a while I found food to love. I hadn’t yet discovered the fun of Philippine foods like Halo Halo or the addictive crunch of fried Crablettes. At the time, Sizzling Sisig just sounded gross and Bagoong simply scared me. While cooking and creating delicious dishes in my own kitchen was as important to me then, as it is now, finding the everyday ingredients I was accustomed to using was a difficult, if not impossible task and I was trying to avoid the serious spiral of culture shock.
No sooner did I begin to feel I’d never find anything I’d love to eat, then the Field’s Avenue lunchtime break routine began and the first stop, a restaurant whose name I can’t remember, but which I’ll never forget, came into my life. There was one other expat working with me and he suggested we head off the base to the perimeter road — Field’s Avenue — for lunch.
Field’s Avenue is a dusty road just off the perimeter of the former Clark Field Air force Base. The former US Base is reported to have been the largest military installation overseas and was to have been the most urbanized. I could see vestiges of that during my 2.5 years there. Although the effects of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption just 8 years earlier flattened a lot of what had once existed, many of the concrete buildings still stood in place, and the establishments for drinking and dining and, ummm… other activities were still thriving, although the patrons were different.
I lived in one of those buildings when I moved from a subdivision in the city to the Clark Special Economic Zone, as it’s called now, I had most of my weeknight dinners either in the Holiday Inn hotel or delivered to my little house by room service. See, I lived on Holiday Inn property. The hotel was the former Chambers Hall; the bachelor officer’s main billet (lodging) when the base was in operation. Across from the lobby were three streets — Bauhinia Street, Plumeria Street and Llan Llang Street. All names of beautiful flowering trees. I lived on Plumeria with it’s big flowering trees which gave off a sweet perfume. These three streets border a beautiful golf course where Tiger Woods once played in an exhibition match during his early days and to have a street named after him.
The walk to the hotel was a quick one, but sometimes I just wanted to sit in a tee shirt and shorts and have dinner in front of the TV with the window unit air conditioners at full speed. I’d pick up the phone, dial 0 and order room service. I knew the menu by heart and it was easy, but I was desperate to cook. At one point I picked up an electric skillet and a small toaster oven and made what I could on the 24 inches of counter space next to the sink. The fridge was small, but big enough to keep some vegetables and chicken or pork and a little butter. Beef was flown in from Australia and was never great. I suspect it had been defrosted and refrozen many times before ending up in my shopping cart, so I rarely spent the money on a tough piece of meat. Cows just weren’t an animal you’d find in the Philippines.
But I’ve strayed from the Fattoush, so back at the Lebanese restaurant…
It was a small space, right out on the avenue. A white building with cheap tables and plastic chairs. But if you wanted to come in an relax with a thick cup of coffee and some shisha, this was the place to go, but for me, it was all about the Fattoush, Hummus, Kabobs, Olives and Yogurt.
I couldn’t get enough if it. Whenever we were deciding where to go for lunch, I wanted to head here. Or to the Chinese restaurant with the huge tanks of fish all around and the overwhelming numbers of weight staff lording over our table. Then there was Salvatore‘s, the Italian place and Cottage Kitchen, a Southern food restaurant with a Cajun bent. By now you know I gravitate toward bold flavors and settled into a routine where at least a coulpe of times a month we’d end at the Lebanese place for lunch.
When I got back to the US I began to crave Fattoush and quickly whipped up my own recipe which really became more like a Israeli Salad or some kind of Mediterranean Salad. It may not be authentic, but it reminds me of my favorite Field’s Avenue restaurant row salad. It’s fairly basic, but you can adjust to feed your own salad cravings.
This is what you need:
- Juice of 1 fresh Lemon
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 bunch Parsley, chopped
- 1 large Cucumber sliced thinly and cut into quarters (I use English, but you can remove the seeds from a regular cucumber)
- 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
- 1/2 small Onion, sliced very thinly (or diced)
- Black and/or Green Olives with or without pits (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons chopped Mint or dried Mint
- Za’atar or a teaspoon of the following:
- 2 teaspoons toasted Sesame Seeds
- 2 teaspoons ground Thyme
- 2 teaspoons Oregano
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Ground Sumac
- Toasted Pita Chips from 2 rounds of Pita bread
Whisk the oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
Add vegetables and olives.
Sprinkle Salt, Pepper, Zahtar and Pita Chips in a large bowl.
Pour oil and vinegar on top taking care not to over-dress the salad. you will have more than you need so taste as you pour and add oil or lemon juice as you feel you need.
Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes. Toss and serve.
Don’t overdress this salad. To bulk up the salad, add cooked quinoa.
This is a perfect summer salad, but don’t reserve it for warm weather days. It’s perfect any time of year.
In 2007 my career with a large, but shrinking high tech Fortune 50 \"left me,\" leaving a void in my life. While lamenting the loss and flying around the world looking for a new career to get married to, I discovered a way to use a familiar outlet during tough times -- writing. My blog-writing morphed into writing about my favorite past time -- Food! I purchase food, sell food, make food, watch food being made, broadcast meal preparation, photograph and blog about food. Like I said; Food! To change this standard text, you have to enter some information about your self in the Dashboard -> Users -> Your Profile box.