I admit it, I came to cooking and baking LATE. Baking, not too late, but cooking LATE. I always liked to bake because I like sweets. Cookies and pies were about the extent of it, but now I like to bake cakes, too. (I made that poppy seed cake with the lime glaze in the picture at right.) I don't do it that often because ... well, once you bake something, it must be eaten, and my eating audience has dwindled to about my husband and brother, and my brother is usually on a diet (one of those crazy ones where you only have 500 calories a day, so you eat a lot of canned veggies and apples. Hmmm...he always loses weight. Maybe I should try that).
I used to brag about how much I DIDN'T like to cook. But then I started writing cozy mysteries, and it's almost a given that you need to include a few recipes. So I started making stuff to test recipes and I found out that I like to tinker with recipes, too.
I had a little time on my hands of late (call it a rest between writing assignments) and I started watching Kitchen Nightmares (with Gordon Ramsey) on Youtube. In just over a week, I'd watched every one available. (Talk about binge watching.) Then I moved on to Hotel Hell. I really liked that one because I got to learn how NOT to run a B&B. And Gordon's cussing? Doesn't bother me a bit. (Hey, I worked in a machine shop for 18 months drilling holes in metal parts for the space shuttle. I've heard it all.)
Yesterday, I watched nearly a whole season of Masterchef Junior (going to watch the finale to see if Addison or Avery wins--go girl power!). What amazed me about that show was the level of skill these kids have. We're talking 8-year-olds who can whip up a serving of duck a l'Orange, bake perfect cream puffs, and cook a perfect medium rare steak, none of which I feel capable of doing. (For one think, I like my steak well done, which would cause the Chef to puke ... and I've heard him do it many times after being served nasty food. Oy, some of those walk-in fridges make you never want to visit a restaurant again).
But, I felt inspired by those kids and decided to make the recipe I've been collecting ingredients for all week.
Pasta With White Beans And Kalamata Olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces uncooked rotini pasta
1 can (about 15 ounces) navy beans
1 can (about 14 ounces) diced tomatoes
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup spinach leaves, packed
¼ cup (1 ounce) pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ cup grated feta cheese
pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, salt and pepper flakes; set aside. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, drain the beans and tomatoes in a colander. Pour the pasta and cooking water over the beans and tomatoes. Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic mixture, olives, spinach, nuts, and basil. Gently toss; blend well. Top with the cheese.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Now, I don't like feta cheese, so I substituted Parmesan; I couldn't find pine nuts, but it tasted great without them. And fresh basil? This is winter in Western NY. Dried worked out just fine. (See what I mean about tinkering with recipes.)
I may not be a Masterchef, but I'm happy when I make a recipe that works and then goes into the dinner rotation. This one's a keeper. And, it's going into my next cookbook (with my changes, of course), "written" by my character, Brenda Stanley.
Care to share a recipe for something you've made recently?