Monday, July 27, 2009

A Meal That Tastes Real

The cooking never stops. Every day I am chopping and slicing, sauteing and braising and boiling, baking and burning. And the cleaning - oh the cleaning that must come after the cooking. How often is the phrase "cooking and cleaning" uttered? The "cooking" is inevitably followed by the cleaning. It's not "cooking and lamenting" nor "cooking and relaxing". No, it is NOT EVEN "cooking and eating".

Which is just a damn shame.

And so every night, after the boiling and the braising and the peeling and the roasting AND the eating, I have a sink full of dirty dishes waiting for me, taunting me on the road to relaxation. Some nights I ignore them. It's okay, I live alone and if I ignore a dish it will not take revenge, except perhaps in the emission of odors (it's bad to ignore any dish that once held fish). Eventually though, I must face the music of the dishwasher - and yes, I do have a dishwasher so it may seem unfair to complain, but everything still needs to be detached from the caked on food. I do not have a garbage disposal, so my sink also requires a good cleaning now and then.

Tonight I decided to take a break. Although I am averse to frozen meals, Trader Joe's has some good food items (salsa verde, lox, olive tapenade, and double chocolate cookies are my favorites) and the short ribs looked good to me. But I remembered why I don't buy frozen meals when I ate the dish - the mealy vegetables and strange tasting sauce were not the best. And that is why I like to cook it myself.

I like having a meal that tastes real, like a sun tan not a fake bake. Like a documentary, not reality TV. Like real love instead of lust. It lasts longer, it's more satisfying, and it's more memorable. And sometimes it tastes so good, it makes me want to tell everyone about it, even if it's as common as oatmeal chocolate chip cookies or pasta with shrimp. Because even when real love is so common with all the couples that I know, I bet all of them think they're pretty special. And that the cooking is totally worth all the cleaning.

Pasta with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce (from Giada's Kitchen)
4 to 6 servings

With recipes like this, you end up with leftovers of an ingredient like bottled clam juice, which you're never going to use up. My solution, because I liked it so much, was to make this dish again a few days later.

1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup bottled clam juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of the basil, 1/4 cup of the parsley, and the red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add the clam juice and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the cooked shrimp, the drained pasta, and the remaining basil and parsley. Toss together until all ingredients are coated with the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and serve.


  1. I LOVE your description of REAL food :). I made brownies from a prepared mix last night, so it was just all the more disappointing when they turned out to be less than fabulous.

    How do you find so many new recipes?

    You're kind of doing the whole Julie and Julia thing. Have you seen the movie?

  2. Michelle,
    There are recipes everywhere! I get two cooking magazines - Cooking Light and Bon Appetit. I have a lot of cookbooks and I try to open one up every week before I go to the store and pick a recipe to make that week. I search on,,,, or just Google search for something I have an idea for. I "steal" recipes - if someone makes something I love, I'll ask them for the recipe so I have a binder full of those. And I look at other food blogs for ideas all the time.
    I just saw Julie and Julia last weekend, but I highly recommend reading the book instead.