Cooking is way, way different from baking. At least, cooking in my perspective. For me, cooking is mastering a few basic techniques and then leaving the rest up to innovation, creativity, inspiration, riskiness, and laziness. Baking, on the other hand, has a set recipe. A plan. Something to follow to wind up with a certain product in the end. I like organization and the assuredness of following a formula (this is probably why I never was one for multivariable calculus). Cooking is crazy, but you can usually manage to salvage a good product because you’re with it every step of the way. You place everything in the oven to bake, and cross your fingers and pray it turns out well.
Anyways, I was tasked with preparing dinner last night so I thought I’d whip up pasta because well, I always crave pasta. I planned to prepare a nice garlicky, creamy white wine sauce to go over farfalle, shrimp, and other veggies. Then I realized that it was nearly 8pm. I don’t know about you (and I know many families that consider 9pm a “normal” dinner time) but college has somehow trained me that dinner should be at 7, or 7:30 at the latest, because the dining halls close at 8. So I ultimately threw myself into a full on cooking frenzy, cooked the basics of what I had to, and ended up with a pasta that tasted delicious, although I couldn’t tell you the exact measurements at all of what I used. I rummaged through my fridge and managed to salvage enough ingredients to come up with something. Pats on the back for me.
So I had farfalle. I put water in a pot, threw a generous handful of salt in, and got it boiling away. I dug out fresh brussels sprouts (they actually weren’t even completely ripe yet – good thing I’ve got plenty of them to let them sit in my fridge for a bit. I planned to roast or saute them with some nice balsamic vinegar and a generous helping of salt and pepper…but that’s for another day) and sliced and diced them up. Same with some broccoli. I had a bag of frozen asparagus in the freezer from earlier this summer when I went asparagus-crazy and bought too much so I froze a bag full of stalks. I also had a bag of frozen peas, so some of that went into the veggie mixture too. I washed everything, and poured some (a tablespoon? More? Now you can see why cooking makes me insecure) into the pan. As the oil was heating up, my water boiled so I tossed in my farfalle and stirred it up. It took a while for the pasta to boil, which was fine, so I let my vegetables saute over medium heat, soaking up the flavor of the olive oil and the generous salt and pepper I tossed over them.
Remember how I said I was going to make shrimp pasta? Um, totally no time here to prepare shrimp and cook it. I had gone to the store before I came home and got a prepackaged rotisserie chicken – the ones they sell by the deli. Ultimate form of laziness, maybe, but cutting up the chicken and throwing it into the pasta was definitely delicious. When my pasta was done (definitely need to work on judging when pasta is done…) I drained it and threw it into the vegetables and chicken. Remember how I was going to make the cream and white wine sauce? I dug out the half-full jar of Trader Joe’s organic vodka sauce I had in my fridge and dumped it all in and mixed it together (oh thank the gods for Trader Joe’s). Plate, serve with some parmesan cheese (and some asiago…because a parmesan asiago blend of cheese was what I found in my refrigerator) and a nice glass of chardonnay. (it may have been Yellow Tail chardonnay. Are you judging me? I think it’s great wine.) I ate everything on my plate and then I had tiramisu for dessert (storebought. Still waiting for the day when I take initiative and make my own…), and I was very content.
So there you have it. The ultimate adventure in making do with what you have and ending up with a pretty darn good result. The broccoli and brussel sprouts had the distinctive olive oil flavor, and were crisp and absolutely delicious. The chicken was moist and complimented the vodka sauce well. The asparagus was mildly mushy, but still pretty firm, and I guess that was my fault for freezing it. The peas were very good – bright pops of sweetness against an otherwise savory background, and I should’ve used more of it.
Maybe next time I’ll tackle that pasta with shrimp and cream/white wine sauce.