Rigatoni con Gamberetti e Funghi

20140429-200731.jpg

In anticipation of Chicago Food Bloggers event tomorrow night, I took my shot at rigatoni and shrimp with a vodka-tinged sauce.

I’ll work on getting some tips from Chef Fantoni on how to wow your friends and dates with stellar Italian cuisine at home. Check back later this week for the full review and follow me on twitter for bite-by-bite updates.

Plus this should prove a good primer for my trip to the motherland in three weeks.

Mangiare!

Make Trader Joe’s Your Sous Chef

20140313-202702.jpg

It’s good to be known for something.

I’m known for a few things: cooking, an insatiable appetite for Mexican food and being funny.

At least that’s what people tell me to my face. I suspect that’s so they get invited to future dinner parties and taco excursions.

Once a month I have board meetings for my alma mater. Sometimes I attend and others I’ll skip the commute into the city and join remotely. I’ve been working later into the night recently (not as a gigolo) and can’t make it downtown in time to fraternize. So tonight in my rear view mirror I got to see a man vigorously drumming with drum sticks on his steering wheel. Once home, I made a quick pasta sauce from scratch to accompany a package of pesto tortellini from Trader Joe’s.

Bachelor Tip: Trader Joe’s and pre-made food can be your friend.

Ravioli or tortellini make really quick dinners. If you’re watching your carb intake, I’m sorry you aren’t blessed with my metabolism. But like all things in life, moderation. Add a salad or some grilled veggies to substitute for eating all the carbs in the pasta.

20140313-202228.jpg

This sauce was inspired mostly by America’s Test Kitchen. They have yet to lead me astray in the kitchen. I also implicitly trust a man in a bow-tie.

Quick Marinara Sauce

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 can organic, whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 2 mini sweet peppers, sliced in rings or diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 3-5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 splash of vodka (chef’s choice if you want a shot for yourself, too)
  • Sprinkling of oregano

Process

  1. Put your phone on mute for your conference call.
  2. Heat skillet on medium heat.
  3. Cut up all the veggies.
  4. Add tsp olive oil to hot pan.
  5. Add onions and carrots to pan. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  6. Add butter.
  7. Stir.
  8. Add mushrooms, stir. Add garlic.
  9. Add can of tomatoes. Mash with the back of a spoon. Or you can also use crushed tomatoes, if you don’t feel like the hulk tonight.
  10. Keep stirring and smashing. Add a splash of vodka or wine. Alcohol always adds more depth of flavor to sauces.

Total cook time was about 30 minutes before it thickened and the raw taste was cooked out of the tomatoes. Be sure to add crushed red pepper flakes if you like a little heat in your sauce.

20140313-202253.jpg

Yes, and… A Guide to Improvising Dinner

 

SCENE: You have worked through lunch and feasted on feelings. The last hour was a struggle. You are running on fumes. After looking at BuzzFeed food articles you started making a list of what food each co-worker resembles.

Now you’re on your way home…in a rocket car… and decide to stay strong. No fast food for you. Because you’re in a rocket car.

After tuck-and-rolling out of the rocket car, you get back to your kitchen. Magically, groceries are not only in your fridge, but they are also still fresh.

In an ideal world, the dinner would be waiting for you on the table. If one of these women I have met would support me in the lifestyle i’m accustomed, this would be their reality. Some day…

Cooking and improv are two of my favorite things. Perhaps the improvisational elements of cooking are part of the allure. The other is sharing food with people also leads to sharing stories.

Last night’s supper was a mish-mosh (culinary term) of ingredients I had. One of the distinguishing characteristics of a good cook is the ability to combine flavors. Italian food tends to have some core ingredients and herbs: garlic, tomatoes, onions, cheese, basil. Mexican cuisine tends to rely on some of the same ingredients, but more cumin and peppers.

The great chefs tend to embark on their own path of flavors and herbs; pairing unconventional items.

One of the worst dishes I ever made was a stuffed pork chop. It looked good, but I deviated from the recipe because I didn’t have all the ingredients. It had apples inside. They were cut too big and subsequently didn’t cook. Did I still eat it? Of course. I spent good money on those pork chops and I was in college. Leave no meal behind!

With experience you’ll learn which vegetables and herbs/spices to add to dishes. When in doubt, experiment. I followed recipes for a while to get an idea of what goes well together. Eventually, you’ll start asking yourself “and what else can I put in this?” Once that happens, your next step will be to the psychologist’s office. When talking to yourself, it’s best to do in public, especially on public transit.

Pesto, Pronto

I bought a jar of pesto sauce. Huge helper, especially when everything has died in the tundra that is Chicago.

Remove the sausage from the casing and saute the Italian sausage for 4-5 minutes.

Add chopped bell pepper, onion, garlic, mushrooms. Then I ripped some kale and tossed that in. Get your vitamins! The sausage has to cook for 10-15 minutes. Removing it from the casing makes it cook faster. Meanwhile, I had pasta water coming to a boil in a separate pot.

From there, cook the pasta, drain, add sauce. Then add in the sausage and veggies mix. Shave or sprinkle some cheese on top.

Photograph and post on all the cougar dating sites. Wait for your phone to start lighting up like a [your joke here].

Skinny Chef Gains 3 Pounds. Blogs About It.

I did something.

Something I’m not proud of.

At some point during the past 3 weeks I gained 3-4 pounds. And no, I didn’t just eat a delicious Chipotle barbacoa burrito.

This is my life.

For those who have yet to meet me, I was recently described as “ridiculously skinny.” Was it comments from family on the multitude of my food pictures? Or a subliminal seed planted by med student friends who warned that my metabolism will slow as I age and that the “Burrito-a-day” plan isn’t “healthy”?

Am I going through the change?! If I continue at this rate, how long do I have before my BMI surpasses my age? Continue reading Skinny Chef Gains 3 Pounds. Blogs About It.