Monday, August 11, 2008

Rediscovering my inner chef

Normally, cooking dinner just for myself seems like far too much work. I either make something easy like a burger or tuna salad, or I eat something frozen, delivered, or purchased at Whole Foods. When I do cook, I often am left with leftovers that I don't ever eat, so I end up feeling really guilty for letting so food go to waste. (My farmer mother taught me well.) But as part of a general push to try to save money, eat healthier and hopefully take off the pounds I have put on since moving to Georgia and discovering both stress and beer, I am trying to cook more often and eat junk and restaurant stuff less. Last week, I made meatloaf with brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes, an old standby of comfort food that I have made for years. But much like the Grilled Stuffed Chicken Saltimbocca I invented a few weeks ago, I have had the urge lately to create more new recipes that are uniquely my own.

Tonight, I created the following meal:

Lemon-Oregano Shrimp
Greek Vegetable "Risotto"
Sauteed Zucchini

Rather than give traditional recipes, I'll just explain how I made this dinner. All amounts are approximate and yielded two generous or three normal sized servings.

For the shrimp:

Devein and peel one pound of large gulf shrimp. Soak in a bowl of lukewarm water with 1/2 cup of salt for 10 minutes. Squeeze and zest one large lemon into a small bowl. Add 3 T fresh chopped oregano, 2 cloves crushed pressed garlic, and 1/2 c. olive oil. Drain shrimp and toss with mixture to coat. Let sit for at least 15 minutes for flavors to absorb. Add to medium-high saute pan and saute until cooked through. Salt and pepper to taste.

For the zucchini:

Wash and chop zucchini into 1/2- 3/4 inch thick slices. Add 1 T olive oil to skillet and one T fresh herbs (I used oregano since I had it) with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, saute zucchini until lightly browned but NOT mushy.

For the Greek "risotto":

I intended to make couscous but got home and realized I did not have any. Oops. Instead, I cooked 1 c. orzo in a pot of half water and half chicken broth, for 7 minutes before draining. I chopped 1/3 of a red pepper, 1/3 of a yellow pepper, and 1/3 of an orange pepper along with 1/2 of an onion and a half a pint of mushrooms, and sauteed in olive oil. I also added about 10 pitted kalamata olives. When vegetables were nicely sauteed, I added the orzo and stirred slowly for 2 minutes. I added 1/2 c. feta and continued to stir for 2 minutes to allow feta to partially melt before serving.

It was fantastic! Though not a great photo, here is the finished product:

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