Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Version of Five Ingredient Fix - Italian with an Asian Guest.

Anyone who is a home cook has been in this situation: need to make a meal for the family, not in the mood to cook, don't want to order take out or go to a restaurant, have no clue what to prepare.  You look in the freezer, the refrigerator, the pantry and think if you should tear your hair out or just serve cereal with milk.  Breathe in...breathe out...breathe in...breathe out...calm...calm...now think.  Suddenly you see an item in the freezer and remember another one from the pantry; yes, they'll work together, but what else?  Back to the refrigerator, oh my, what you just found that would compliment the other two ingredients; the next thing you know, you have five ingredients sitting on the counter and a recipe formulating in your mind.

Not only did I play this game with myself over the weekend, but I ended up playing it with my friend Heidi.  I don't truly like calling it "five ingredient fix", after the show on Food Network Channel; instead I've given it my own title that befits more the home cook, "What the Hell is in My Pantry!?!"  While Heidi ended up making a delicious meatloaf with mashed potatoes - American comfort food; I ended up making a pasta dish with shrimp and edamame - Italian comfort food with a little Asian undertone (the edamame), but I would not call this "fusion" cuisine.

Here are my five ingredients:

Lets go over each one separately before putting them all together as a skillet dinner.

Tortellini are little circles of pasta dough filled typically with a ricotta cheese filling; however nowadays they can be filled with spinach and cheese, chicken, roasted peppers, mushrooms, ground beef, even Italian sausage.  This pasta is usually found in three forms: dry, frozen or fresh.  Here's a little tip about cooking, not just tortellini, but any pasta; you do not have to add salt or oil to the boiling water to keep the pasta from sticking.  Say what!?!  That's correct, as soon as you put the pasta in the boiling water, immediately begin to stir it for one minute in a circular motion.  When you add the pasta, it decreases the temperature of the water slightly and the boiling diminishes; by stirring, the friction will help the water get back to the boiling point much faster than if you just let it stand.  After the pasta is cooked to your desired doneness, then you can season it with salt, herbs, olive oil, or add it to whatever recipe you're making immediately upon draining.  After I cooked my one pound package of frozen tortellini, it was drained and then mixed with three tablespoons of olive oil.

During the week I had made a different pasta dish using a homemade sauce I had made from processing fresh tomatoes, but had two cups leftover in the fridge.  If you have never had a sauce made from fresh tomatoes, then you have surely missed out on an experience. The taste, smell, texture is simply incredible; much better than using canned tomatoes and most definitely nothing, NOTHING, you'll get from a brand name jarred sauce.  I also used two cups of diced tomatoes to add further texture to the dish, and all those little pieces of tomato just looked so pretty too.  Remember, you eat with your eyes as well as your mouth.

In the freezer were a 12 ounce bag of steamed shrimp and a 16 ounce bag of edamame which had been purchased for a different recipe.  However, they just begged to be used now; the shrimp was already cooked, so needed no work done to it.  The edamame was put into a boiling pot of water for five minutes, then drained.  Now it was time to put it all together in one skillet.

In a 12 inch deep skillet, heat the sauce and diced tomatoes on medium-high heat, add the tortellini as soon as the sauce begins to form bubbles.   As you can see, the tortellini was not sticking together because of the oil I had mixed with it before hand.  Let cook for two minutes before adding...

...the shrimp and edamame.  Mix all the ingredients together and continue to cook for five minutes; taste to make sure everything has been thoroughly heated before serving, continue to cook additional minutes if necessary.  Be careful though, you don't want to overcook that shrimp and turn it into rubber bands.

There you have it, my own version of "Five Ingredient Fix" or "What the Hell is in My Pantry!?!"; isn't that so pretty, all those colors just popping out from the dish.  I did not have to add any seasoning as the grated cheese and herbs from the pasta sauce, and olive oil on the tortellini, did all the work.

Next time you're in a fit about what to fix for dinner; remember breathe, calm and think.

Mary Cokenour