I have a confession to make. I’m one of those people who buys cookbooks because they have pretty pictures or the recipes are marketed as “quick and easy to make” and then they sit in my kitchen, virtually untouched because I never have the ingredients or the time, or feel like making something else.
It’s not that I don’t want to make the recipes. It’s just that when I’m feeling cuisine-ly creative, I want to make something interesting out of the ingredients I already have–not buy more for a recipe I may only make once.
Perhaps that’s a tad defeatist but the truth is, I grew up in a home where money was very tight and very often, food was neither plentiful nor healthy. We didn’t have a car and it was difficult to get to the grocery store so we usually did one big trip once a month for groceries and spent the rest of the month picking up small things at convenience stores, like milk and eggs.
We survived, obviously, but when it came to fresh produce, it was really only something we had in the beginning of the month. Perhaps now as a knee-jerk reaction, I hate to see food go to waste and I am always trying to come up with new, (and delicious) (and healthy) meals using whatever it is I’ve got to work with. It’s not a perfect effort, but it is an exercise in creativity. Not having any food growing up sucked, but I think it developed my interest in and appreciation for cooking.
So last night I took a look at what I had that was left over or was in need of being eaten before going bad, and I whipped up an Italian-inspired pasta dish. Like I said, I’m not quite scientific in my cooking/measurements but it ended up being about 3 big portions.
I began with about 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes and half a tomato I had left over in the fridge. I threw it in a nonstick pan with olive oil, garlic, a dash of vegetable broth, and some spices–basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper.
As the cherry tomatoes began to break down and release liquid I continued stirring and adding small splashes of broth/olive oil as needed to keep anything from sticking. Normally I saute with water but I didn’t want to drown out too much of the flavor.
Once all the tomatoes had broken down I added in a chopped half of each: yellow onion, zucchini, and summer squash. I added another handful of cherry tomatoes, some left over baked eggplant pieces, and just enough broth to saute the added vegetables. Around the same time, I began to boil water for the half box of rotini I had in the cupboard.
I threw in a couple pinches of spices here and there to taste and once all the vegetables softened and were nearly done, I added a couple tablespoons of red sauce, just to keep the dish from getting too dry.
I strained the pasta and heaped on the veggies. The flavor was great–Chris even liked it, and said it was good with a sprinkle of parmesan. The dish wasn’t crazy fancy but it was a decent dose of veggies and it felt good to make something out of them before they went bad. Overall I’d say it wasn’t too shabby for improv.