Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Confessions of a Dump Cook

Ok, I confess. I’m a dump cook. I rarely use a recipe unless I am baking. I think it’s genetic—an inborn trait written on my very being at birth. My very first memory bears this out. I am about two years old and it is an early morning in spring. My mama is still in bed. There is a white Formica table pushed up against the wall beneath the dining room window. The bright sunshine backlights the curtains a brilliant yellow. It is dazzling and I crawl up on the table entranced by the beauty of the sunshine. How lovely—there is a tub of strawberry jam left up here from supper last night. It is a very pretty red. I’m hungry. Dipping my fingers into the jam, I bring them to my mouth. It is sweet and yummy. How pretty, I think as I take another scoop and this time smear it across the brilliant yellow curtains. The sun shines through illuminating the jeweled pictures I create. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I turn to get more jam.

I do not remember my mothers’ reaction upon finding me—just how beautiful the red jam was on the yellow curtains with the sun behind—but it was my first experiment in ‘dumping’. She tells me that when she found me, I had the entire jam tub, upended on top my head like a hat. Many such experiments followed. Playing with food was fun. One memorably spectacular disaster involved a bag of melted chocolate chips, peppermint oil and coconut. I was nine. You cannot imagine my disappointment as I dumped the whole mess down the garbage disposal so my mother would not find I’d wasted food.

Playing with food is still one of my favorite activities—a little of this, and a little of that. Sometimes it works and sometimes I again dump the whole mess in the trash. The following recipe is a ‘dump’ recipe. I don’t have measurements—it’s a little of this and a little of that. The nice thing about ‘dump’ recipes is that they can be the canvas for many dishes. Here I offer an easy Alfredo pasta sauce that can be used as the base for Pasta Primavera, Chicken Alfredo, or Chicken Artichoke Penne. Be as creative as you like. It’s fun.

Easy Alfredo Sauce
Measurements are approximate.

1-2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-5 cloves garlic—pressed or minced very fine
1 package low fat cream cheese (for richer sauce use full fat cream cheese)
1-1 ½ C half and half (can also use fat free half and half)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp fresh ground pepper

Put olive oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cream cheese. Smash cream cheese and garlic together. Cheese will begin to melt as it gets hot. Add half-and-half and whisk gently until sauce is smooth and thick. Add nutmeg and ground pepper. Sauce can now be added to any pasta dish. (If the sauce is too thick, add more half-and-half.)

For Auntie Eileen:

Chicken Penne Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts—diced
½ onion—cut in half and sliced thin
1-2 tsp dried thyme (fresh basil would be good too)
Salt and pepper
1-2 jars marinated artichoke hearts-drained
6-8 oz sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil-drained
1 recipe Alfredo sauce (above)
2 C penne pasta
Parmesan and/or Romano cheese

Prepare Alfredo sauce as above and set aside. Boil water for penne and cook until al dente. While pasta is cooking, sauté diced chicken, thyme, and onions in olive oil until chicken is cooked through and onions are tender. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Combine cooked chicken, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and pasta. Pour Alfredo sauce over pasta and mix to combine. Garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Photo Credits: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

(From commons,)

1 comment:

  1. Hi friend.. Interesting post.. Nice blog work.. keep it up..
    will drop by your site often.. Do find time to visit my blog and post your comments..
    Have a great day.. Cheers!!!


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