Thursday, August 27, 2009

Step 2 - Off to the Supermarket

Previously on Battlestar Galac... never mind.

Right, last time we went over the first step in building your kitchen. Now, we're going to get into the first recipe.

Step 2 - Off to the Supermarket!

OK, you've just broken up with your significant other who was more than happy to take care of the nightly meals and just moved into that bachelor pad and you got Gabriel's on speed dial. Whoa there Tex, put that phone down!

With a few key ingredients, you can fix yourself dinner in minutes on the cheap. So, what does a person need in their fridge/pantry? Well, since today we're going to focus on "the easiest pasta meal ever", we're going to pick up those ingredients specifically.

Alright, the primary ingredient any fledgling cook must, MUST have in their kitchen is olive oil. Forget butter or margarine; you can, in most cases, use this tastier, healthier alternative. It's best to pick up that "extra virgin" stuff, but since pretty much EVERY brand says extra virgin, who the heck knows what's the super tasty awesomeness? And really, olive oil is olive oil, it generally doesn't matter what brand you get when you cook with it. It might matter for dressings and the like, but we'll address that issue at another time.

So, all that to say, pick up whatever the heck you want. There's usually some brand on sale at the local supermarket. Or, if you want to be sure, check out an Italian gourmet shop (e.g. Nicastro's in Ottawa), they usually have a high quality house brand that's sold inexpensively.

Alright, since man can't live by oil alone, what else are we picking up? OK, well, the other essential is garlic. Really, with just garlic and olive oil (and pasta of course), you can have a meal right then and there, but it's a bit boring. Soooooo, grab a bulb of garlic. Look at the bottom to make sure it's still good (it should be firm and if you see signs of discoloration or mould, leave it).

Now, pick up whatever veggies and meat you like. I usually like tomato, onion and red pepper. I'm a big fan of using (frozen) shrimp as it cooks fast and is fairly easy to prep as opposed to, say, chicken, which requires all that sanitizing and decontaminitation showers. Also good are frozen scallops, all you need to do is thaw them a little bit and you're good to go. Red meat usually is too heavy for this kind of dish, but what do I know? Slices of dry salami could also work well in this kind of recipe.

Anyhoo, the idea is that you're cooking for yourself (with the possible intention of cooking for others later on) so you want to use ingredients you actually like to eat.

Alright, obviously you need pasta. I usually go with linguine or spaghetti, both cook fast and reliably. I use dry pasta because it's dirt cheap, but if you want to get the fancy fresh stuff, be my guest Rockefeller! You can use whole wheat pasta if you're THAT health nutty, but I find it doesn't cook as nicely as "normal" pasta.


- Parmesan cheese - get it pre-grated, just easier that way and the difference in taste is minimal

- Black Pepper - President's Choice sells black peppercorns in their own cheapie plastic grinder for about 4 bucks. It's the best invention ever, forget penicillin or the light bulb. Buy this.

- Basil and Oregano - a small dash of either or both of these herbs dry is a nice finishing touch to any pasta dish

- Salt - OK, salt is going to get it's whole own post at some point, but let me just get this out of the way. NEVER put more than a teaspoon of salt in any recipe, unless you're batch cooking (like chili or a pot of soup). We North Americans eat way too much salt (check the sodium content on a can of soup one of these days) and it really isn't much good when you have far more interesting flavours present (see above); also if you're using Parmesan cheese, there's more than enough salt already there

- Parsley - not my fave, but some people loves their garnishes

- Wine - a splash of red or white adds a wonderful flavour to the sauce

Alright, the next post, we give 'er!

Till next time!

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