I Cooked Dinner and No One Died

I know how to make exactly three meals:

  1. Chile
  2. Lasagna
  3. Grilled Chicken, which I usually serve pesto sauce, made from one of those Knorr packets, and a side of pasta, which I usually serve with a Parma Rosa sauce from one of those Knorr packets.

I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoy baking, but cooking is a whole different story. I’m just not good at it–I can’t even make scrambled eggs for God’s sake. I don’t have the knife skills needed for it. I don’t have the eye for adding a pinch of this or that. I don’t like how it takes what seems like hours to cook a meal, and then you eat it in ten minutes. At least you can make a batch of cookies or brownies last a couple of days (or at least a couple of hours in my case) and you feel like you got some kind of return on investment. Above all, I just don’t enjoy cooking for some reason.

My husband and I have been together for six years, and I’ve probably cooked the meals listed above a total of six times (that means I cook once per year, for those of you that need help with the math). He definitely does the bulk of the cooking. Lucky for both of us, because I’d have to resort the peanut butter and cereal to round out my culinary repertoire or else we’d both turn into chicken or pasta noodles. On the other hand, he doesn’t really like to bake, so at least we complement each other in that way. Just another example of why we’re so well matched (awww).

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking that I should work on improving my cooking skills. It would be nice for the hubby not to have to cook every night, and at some point, we’ll have kids and I’m probably going to need to cook for them. So, last night, I actually cooked followed a recipe from Martha Stewart’s “Everyday Food: Great Food Fast” Cookbook. I like this book because it’s divided into seasons, so you can get ideas for your comfort food in the Winter, your pumpkins and squash in the fall, and your fish with fruity salsas in the summer. And, best of all, we got it on a random trip to Home Goods, so it was pretty cheap! I like getting a good bargain even more than I like good food.

This might be a good time to mention that I heart Martha. I could never even hope to come up with half of the crap she comes up with (I always remember watching a holiday-themed episode of her show, where she was making ornaments to represent the objects in the 12 Days of Christmas and she made 12 drums out of old Quaker Oatmeal containers. Seriously), but I’m in awe of her business savvy and all the crafty ideas, recipes, organization tips, etc. that I read about in her magazine and never get around to implementing. Also, I’m insanely jealous that she has a whole room in her house just devoted to dishes, silverware, and centerpiece makings. The woman has shelves lined with dishes for every occasion, from Easter, to Kwanzaa, to summer luaus. I would love to be able to collect all the cute dishes that I come across, but I just don’t have the room to store them all. I’m already dreaming about the dish room I’ll have in my next house. I will be just like Martha when I grow up.

Anyway. Idol worship over.

So, I ended up making a dish from the Spring section—Linguine with Sausage and Peppers. When I was flipping through the book, the recipe jumped out at me, mostly because it required minimal chopping and didn’t require me to make a sauce, so I figured it couldn’t really be that difficult or time consuming.

So, how did I do? I was actually really proud of my knife usage. I think I did of good job of slicing the garlic and red peppers pretty thin. I only scraped my nail once or twice, but that’s what they’re there for right? And, I actually managed to finish cooking in about an hour and didn’t make a huge mess!

But of course, there were a couple of missteps. I managed to let a plastic bag get too close to the stove and it melted a bit. Then, I took the arugula out of the fridge to tear it, only to figure out mid-way through the process that it was the parsley for Thursday night’s pork chops. I as thrown off by the green I guess. Also, I never know how much pasta to cook for just two people (I’m used to my mom’s tendency to dump the whole box in, like she’s feeding a small nation) and I ended up making way too much. Instead of spooning the sausage and pepper mixture on top of the pasta after it was in the bowls, I dumped it into the pasta while it was still in the pot and it wasn’t very evenly distributed. Plus, because we only had angel hair on hand, the meat got lost in the thin strands of pasta and the ratio of pasta to meat was definitely off.

The end result, I think, was just okay. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted pretty good. I happen really like butter (or, in our house, Smart Balance) on my pasta, because I think it’s yummy with a ton of grated parmesan on top. And, the arugula gave it a spicy, almost nutty flavor (that the parsley definitely would not have). But, the presentation was kind of lacking and that made me sad. It definitely did not look like the pretty picture in the book If I made this again, I would definitely use a thicker pasta (it would probably be good with rigatoni or something) and maybe that would help.

All in all though, I’d give myself a passing grade. It tasted decent and both the hubby and I are still alive today. Maybe I’ll start to cook more than once a year…

Linguine with Sausage and Peppers

by Martha Stewart from “Everyday Food: Great Food Fast”

Ingredients:

– Course salt and fresh ground pepper

– 1 pound linguine

– 1 pound turkey sausage casings removed

– 6 garlic cloves thinly sliced

– 4 yellow or red bell peppers, ribs and seed removed, thinly sliced

– 4 tablespoons butter

– 4 cups of arugula torn

Preparation:

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the linguine until al dente according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta water; return the pasta to the pot.

2. Meanwhile, cook the sausage and 2 tablespoons water in a large covered nonstick skillet over medium until the fat renders., about 5 minutes. Uncover; raise the heat to medium-high. Brown the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, about 7 minutes.

3. Add the garlic, bell peppers, and 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water; cook until the peppers soften, about 6 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of pasta water and the butter; swirl to combine.

4. Transfer to the pot. Add the arugula; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Toss; add more pasta water as desired. Serve immediately.

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