Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Doesn’t Everybody Cook This Way?
Sure, I ooh and ahh over dishes I spot on other blogs as much as the next cook. I wouldn’t want to count how many recipes I’ve clipped, or copied and pasted. I confess I’ve never actually prepared the overwhelming majority of them – although they often serve as inspiration when I’m trying to figure out what to do with a specific ingredient, or feel my well of culinary creativity has run dry.
But sometimes the best inspiration comes from simply looking inside my fridge . . . surveying my pantry . . . and pondering my typically overzealous farmers market purchases.
The concoctions I’ve come up with have been peculiar on occasion. A few so disappointing I either disposed of them immediately or let their leftovers languish until I had to throw them out, refrigerator container and all. But one of the bonuses of cooking for oneself is playing around in the kitchen unfettered. I’m not chained to recipes. I have no need to impress anyone. No one else’s palates to please, or food prejudices to work around. And I can make things as complex, or as simple, as I choose.
This time I went simple. I fried a couple slices of bacon. Threw some diced garlic and chopped fennel into its renderings. Added in some fresh sage, then – why not? – tossed some whole wheat penne and white wine into the skillet to see if I could adapt that risotto-like first stage to pasta. When the pasta began to soften, I added some water and covered with a lid. Checked back periodically to add liquid and check on the doneness of the penne. When it was close and had absorbed most of the liquid, I added more sage, a handful of mushrooms, some shreds of butternut squash cut with a vegetable peeler, (which I knew would cook in a flash), fresh clams, and more white wine.
I pulled the clams as each opened, not wanting to overcook those precious puppies. Glad to find only one would not (a sure sign to discard), I returned the rest to the skillet for a moment to rewarm. I turned out my veggie-pasta-clam mélange into a bowl, then – because it pleased my whim – topped with some torn prosciutto, cubed parmesan, cherry tomatoes, and fennel fronds.
All in all, a successful experiment. With some warm bread and a glass of wine, that pasta dish was just what I wanted to tuck into in front of some food television as I nursed a lingering cold and kept an ear cocked for anyone scratching at the door.
Sadly, Scout has not returned, nor have my efforts posting on Craigslist, calling animal shelters, etc. turned up anything. It’s hard to be optimistic, especially as days pass and with our cold, rainy, windy, dismal weather. I thank my many friends for opening your hearts to me and checking back for news. After 14 years, he may have used up all nine of his lives patrolling the neighborhood, making friends with kids and old people alike, and adventuring in his own fashion (with more dire consequences than my simple cooking experiments).
Scout came into my life, tiny and not yet weaned, when someone dropped him off at a state park where one of my best friends worked. (why people think this is a good idea, I do not know). Della took in many strays herself and was relentless in finding homes for more. I have now been missing her for the better part of a decade. In the event Scout turns up, I will hale his return loud and wide.
Meanwhile, I am doing my best to envision Scout and Della reunited somewhere they are both pain-free and enjoying themselves as the perennial teenagers they always were in their own minds. Scout, you’re on your own when Della cranks up her 80s head-banger rock :) But you’ll also find Della is a cat whisperer who will protect you like no other tiger mom who never had kids of her own.