Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My kind of recipe

I love to cook. I cook most of my own meals. I like to cook extravagant, wholesome, delicious meals. I experiment a lot and am always trying new things in the kitchen. I focus more on stocking staples, spices, dried goods and things that I can use to make things my way instead of things like premade soups, MREs, freeze dried cans, etc. I've got a lot of cookbooks and I save good recipes that I find on the internet. Every once in a while I find a really good one. Not because the finished product is so good but because, instead of giving you a list of ingredients and telling you how to prepare it, it gives you ideas on how to do a popular dish several different ways by giving you the fundamentals on how to make it along with a set of rules that you should follow to make sure that it turns out well.

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. Pasta salad is one of those things that I like to keep in the fridge. Rather than keeping a book full of recipes I keep this around and make it off of these guidelines. I found this a while back and have used it ever since.

How to Make Pasta Salad

by Susan MacDowell

Pasta salad is a great dish to have in your culinary repertoire. It's quick to prepare, adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand and popular with most diners. If you're looking for an easy side dish or a light entree, this guide to How to Make Pasta Salad will walk you through the process of preparing the perfect pasta salad.

Table of Contents

* Introduction
* What You'll Need
* Step 1: Cook the Pasta
* Step 2: Mix the Dressing
* Step 3: Assemble the Salad
* Additional Potato Salad Recipes
* References

Pasta Salad Tips

1. Experiment with different pastas
2. Don't over-cook the pasta
3. Substitute light mayonnaise or yogurt to reduce fat and calories.

by Susan MacDowell


* Whether its a traditional mayonnaise dressed macaroni salad, or a more sophisticated mixture of artichokes and bow tie pasta, a pasta salad is a great accompaniment to a summer barbecue.1 2 This is truly a dish where your culinary creativity can shine! Starting with the basic framework of a box of dried pasta, a cup of salad dressing, and 3-5 cups of chopped vegetables, you can put your individual spin on this classic dish.

What You'll Need

* 1 box of Pasta
* 1 cup of Salad Dressing
* 3-5 cups of chopped Vegetables


* Stock pot
* Colander
* Mixing Bowl
* Cutting Board
* Mixing Spoon


Dried pasta works better than fresh pasta. Even without that option, there are lots of choices when selecting the pasta you'll use as the basis for your salad.

1. Increase fiber by selecting a whole wheat pasta, rather than the traditional semolina based variety.
2. Add visual interest by choosing a mix of colors.
3. Colored pasta has a small amount of an ingredient like spinach (green), tomato (red) or squid ink (black).
4. Make sure the shape you select works with the salad. Pastas with curves and ridges like shells, rigatoni or orechiette tend to pick up small additions like chopped scallions or bacon bits. Smooth pastas like elbows or farfalle are better work well with an oil and vinegar based dressing.


* For a simple salad, you can use any prepared salad dressing.8 If you have a few more minutes you can mix your own mayonnaise-based or oil and vinegar dressing.


* The vegetables you use are limited only by your imagination.9 Onions and celery are basic choices. Red and green peppers add color and crunch.10

Optional Additions

* Nuts, sundried tomatoes, bacon bits and dried fruits can add interest to the salad. You can also add cheeses such as feta, parmesan or goat cheese.9

Step 1: Cook the Pasta

* Boil the pasta noodles according to package directions. Make sure you don't overcook the pasta. Drain the pasta immediately after cooking. If you're using an oil and vinegar based dressing, add some now, before the pasta cools. Otherwise, toss the pasta with 1 T of olive oil, and let cool. (The oil keeps the pasta from sticking together.)11

Step 2: Mix and Season the Dressing

* If you'd like to mix your own dressing, here are two simple choices.

Mayonnaise Based

* 1/3 cup Vinegar
* 1 cup Mayonnaise
* Salt and Pepper

Oil and Vinegar

* 1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
* 1 cup Olive Oil
* Salt and Pepper

Optional Seasonings

* Whisk the ingredients together, adding seasonings as desired.12
o 1/4 cup Minced shallot
o 1 T Dijon Mustard
o 2 cloves pressed Garlic
o 1/2 t Sugar
o 1/4 cup chopped fresh Herbs

Step 3: Assemble the Salad

1. Add dressing to pasta.
2. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed, adding more vinegar, salt or pepper.
3. Add vegetables and any optional ingredients.
4. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled, as desired.

Obviously, once you get a good handle on how to cook it's pretty easy to figure out this stuff. It's not that hard to look at a recipe and make changes as you see fit. Seeing it this way just makes it easier for me to figure out how to do it the way I want it without having to make it several times first. If anyone has some good links or books with a lot of recipes with this type of format I'd love to take a look. Please share!


Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Good recipes, man! As a culinary dabbler myself, I like the leeway inherent in these. Variety is the spice of life, it's said. And improvisation is necessity when 'work with what ya got' is theme...

Great Stuff!


Anonymous said...

if it suit's your taste,drain a can of mixed veggie's,pea's and carrot's,whatever,into the pasta water to flavor it a bit.Toss them in at the end of mixing..maybe some diced spam too!

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