Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Through my guesstimating eyes...

As the author of a food blog, it goes without saying that I really enjoy cooking and like to think that I am sometimes moderately successful. However, blogging about food has turned out to be quite a bit more complicated than doing the actual cooking. One of the main reasons for this is having to write down exact recipes for all my creations -- a task that I have always put off in the past. Being a scientist, I am no stranger to following precise recipes mixed to exacting specifications. But I must say, that when it comes to everyday cooking, I’m pretty much of a pinch-of-this and a splash-of-that kinda gal. I don’t always know how many tablespoons (although I can estimate those pretty well) or how many ounces (I can’t estimate those at all) of any given ingredient goes into my recipes. I also believe in using what you have on hand rather than hunting down specific ingredients. And since I don’t usually bother writing down my recipes, they never turn out quite the same every time I make them. This allows for plenty of variety, but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I had written down exactly how I made that ancho mole sauce I made for Thanksgiving in 2006. Perhaps I have been playing to increasingly tougher crowds, but I am yet to receive as many rave reviews on anything as I did for that sauce!

Starting this food blog has hence been a blessing and a bane. On the one hand, my cooking speed has been considerably slowed down since I now measure out all my ingredients in order to be able to recreate them in my posts. On the other hand, I have finally started a collection of recipes that I enjoy making and eating – this should, in theory at least, make the question: “What’s for dinner?” a lot easier to answer in the future.

However, for old-time’s sake (and because I’m a bit pressed for time today), I thought I would share with you one of my recipes as seen through my guesstimating eyes. Here’s what’s for dinner, tonight. Enjoy!

Tomato Spinach shells with Basil-Saffron Cream sauce

Half a package of Tomato Spinach Shells, cooked al dente
1 pat butter
2 small splashes extra-virgin olive oil
A couple of tablespoons of pumpkin seeds
One large spoonful of minced garlic
One large spoonful of minced basil
4 dried red chili peppers, crumbled
(On a 3-star spice scale, this will definitely earn you 4-stars; not for the faint-of-heart)
A handful of thinly-sliced red onions
A fistful of all-purpose flour
2 small splashes of half and half
About 2 C milk (I used skim milk)
A dash of grated parmesan
Half a cup of petite peas
2 small pinches of saffron strands
(The sweetness of the saffron balances the spice of the chilis nicely)
Salt to taste

Toast pumpkin seeds lightly in hot skillet and remove
Melt butter in same skillet, add onions, garlic, chili peppers and basil to butter and sautee until fragrant
Add olive oil to skillet and sautée for an additional minute or so
Add A/P flour and sautee for a couple of minutes
Add half-and-half, milk, and parmesan; toss in peas
Salt to taste and allow sauce to simmer and thicken
Stir in saffron
Serve atop shells with a side of steamed corn-on-the-cob.

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