Thursday, August 26, 2010

Take Five

During the week, it's difficult to come up with quick, simple, and delicious meals that everyone will enjoy.  Each week in this space, I will post a recipe for a simple main course that requires 5 ingredients.  It may be a slow cooker stew, it may be a quick saute, delicious soup, or a pasta bake, but each dish will be fresh, simple, and a new addition to your weeknight repertoire. To get you started, the ground rules are that I'm assuming you have a pantry that is stocked; not only a dry pantry with flour, sugar, dried herbs and chocolate, but a cold pantry with butter, milk, cheeses, ice cream and frozen vegetables.  The "five" will be the fresh protein and vegetables. And some weeks, like this week, it will be a pantry meal, using some of the ingredients from your pantry to make the dinner. 

Sadly not everyone has this kind of space

This is what's in my dry pantry:

Canned Tuna (oil pack)
Canned San Marzano Tomatoes
Canned Beans (garbanzo, kidney,pinto,black and small white beans)
Dry Pasta (your favorite shapes)
Rice (Arborio, long grain and brown)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Vinegars (Balsamic, red wine, rice, cider)
sea salt
Pepper (in a grinder please)
Dried herbs and spices
Sun dried tomatoes
Marinated artichokes
Dried legumes (split peas, lentils, beans)
Olives (Kalamata and green)
Peanut Butter
Coconut Milk
Chicken, Beef or Vegetable broth
Condiments:  Mayo, mustard (Dijon and ball park), Ketchup, Worcestershire
Soy Sauce
Sesame oil
Store your spices in a cupboard or drawer away from heat and direct sunlight

Many of my students ask how to tell if their spices are still viable; really, if you have to ask, they are probably way past their prime.  A good habit to cultivate is to label them with the date (month/year) they were bought, but the best way is the sniff test---if they have no aroma whatsoever it's time to replace them with new. I usually do a purge on New Years' day--toss anything I know is old, and replace it with new--that way each year I know when I've bought most of the herbs in the cabinet.  With regard to herbs and spices, I use a 30 minute rule, if an herb or spice will be simmered for longer than 30 minutes, you will need to use a dried herb (generally the conversion is 1/3 the amount of fresh herb called for) If you have fresh herbs, add them at the end of the cooking time to refresh the flavor of the dish.  The exceptions to the 30 minute rule are sprigs of thyme that will simmer in stock, and fresh rosemary, which can be quite strong, and holds up well during a long cooking time. 
Our first Take 5 is a Pantry Meal; you should have all the ingredients in your pantry which is a great bonus if you are exhausted and out of ideas; it can be a vegetarian main course, or you can add leftover cooked chicken or seafood to it.

Farfalle with Creamy Sun Dried Tomato  Sauce

Serves 6

One pound farfalle pasta, cooked 3 minutes short of al dente, drained and kept warm
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, melt the butter, and add the garlic, and tomatoes, sauteing for 3 minutes, until the butter is infused with the garlic.  Add the half and half, and bring to a boil.  Add the cooked pasta, and basil, and turn in the sauce to coat the pasta.  Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, add 1/4 cup of the cheese and the pepper, and toss to blend.  Serve the pasta in shallow bowls, garnished with additional Parmigiano Reggiano. 
If you would like to add leftover cooked chicken, or seafood, (about 2 cups is good) add it with the garlic and tomatoes, so it will absorb some of the flavors before you add it to the pasta. 

And one more thing, I never promised a non-fat blog; so please no snarky comments about using butter, or half and half. I'm committed to fresh, but I will be committed if I have to deal with low fat/soy/non-fat issues.  If you are that concerned about a dish, don't make it, it's that simple.

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