If Jho Can Cook…

13 Aug

As part of my meager contributions to our New York life, I’ve been cooking. Mostly dinners, usually at least 2-3 times a week. My biggest resources are Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Italian and Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals 2. If I had to eat pasta every day for the rest of my life, I would not be unhappy.

I know some of you are thinking, Jho – cook? But she seems so happy with her Ruffles and mint chip ice cream “dinners.” And you would be right. I am perfectly happy eating a bag full of sour cream and cheddar chips, followed by a bowl full of Breyer’s mint chocolate chip, for dinner. It’s a delicious feast of salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth.

Alas, CityBoy is a gym rat and health nut. He firmly places potato chips in the “unhealthy, do not eat” category. The irony is that there are plenty of not so good things that CityBoy enjoys with the fervor of a devotee, including late night snacks of cheese and wine. Don’t get me wrong. I love wine and cheese. Just not at 1:30am. At that point, I mostly want a nice snuggle and sleep.

As I’m currently still unemployed, I thought I would try my hand at improving at my very basic cooking skills. Everyone talks about how expensive New York City is, and I thought, this way, I would be saving us some money by staying in for dinner. Which is true, to some extent. It’s highly unlikely that I’m ever going to prepare a $100 dinner at home (which is a very easy tab to achieve in NY restaurants, once you add up two entrees, an appetizer or dessert, a bottle of wine and two coffees). But you’ll still find me muttering to myself in the olive oil aisle at Grace’s, our nearby fancy grocer, where there are no less than 20 different kinds of olive oil and none less than $15 a bottle. What happened to good, old $5 olive oil? It is the stuff of dreams. Like $3 ice cream (I recently paid $6 for a pint of Haagen-Dazs to fulfill a particularly deep need for ice cream that night) and $1 eggs.

So I’ve been choosy in my recipes. Roast pork loin? Out, until I grow big enough cojones to tackle a $30 cut of meat. Marinated chicken with orzo? Hell yes. I prefer recipes with less than 10 ingredients and simple instructions like “dice,” “saute,” or “stir.” I like to stir and I’m quite good at it.

Here’s some of what I’ve made so far:

yay food - white bean dip

Giada’s White Bean Dip, with Trader Joe’s Parmesan and Garlic Pita Chips

This has got to be, hands down, my favorite new thing. You just whirl cannelini beans, parsley, lemon juice and garlic in the food processor, drizzle in some olive oil and you are in snack food heaven. I cheat and just buy my pita chips, rather than subject our tiny household to the ungodly heat brought on by using the oven. I make extra and snack on the stuff all week. Try it – you will be hooked.

yay food - shrimp and couscous

RR’s Pan-Seared Shrimp with Couscous and Zucchini

These shrimp are a veritable taste explosion in your mouth. Who knew that sweet paprika, parsley, red pepper flakes and lemon juice could produce such flavor? RR’s recipe called for making skewers of shrimp and scallops and I had some slight problems with that. First of all, I don’t like scallops. I used to think that I did, but several expensive and not very agreeable meals later, I can honestly say that I do not. As for skewers, you would think that would be an easy item to find in food-obsessed New York. Not so. I visited three different stores, including CVS which definitely carriers skewers in California, to no avail. So I just pan fried the shrimp, sans skewer. Guess what? It affects the taste not one bit.

yay food - bucatini

Bucatini Marinara with Sausage (courtesy of Food Network)

I bought some sweet Italian sausage from Trader Joe’s on a whim, thinking I had seen a recipe in RR or Giada calling for sausage. On sausage day, I realized that their recipes either called for turkey sausage or hot sausage. Rather than risk it (I am not an improviser when it comes to cooking, which is why I’m a good baker – I like recipes, I like following someone’s proven path), I hunted on the Internet for an alternative recipe. This one by Mary Nolan turned out quite good. You need to cool and puree the tomato sauce to get it to the right consistency, which was a bit tricky, but it makes for a hearty, satisfying meal. Especially with a dollop of ricotta cheese and fried sausages.

Sadly, there’ve been other dishes I’ve made and forgotten to photograph, like the Asparagus and Fontina Frittata I made for CityBoy one weekend morning, according to Giada’s very simple instructions. Cooking the frittata heated up the kitchen like something awful, but it was worth it.

I’ll keep you updated as I go along.

Bon apetit,

Jho

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