Heat of the Moment

I’ve been on a real improv kick in the kitchen lately. Not planning out my meals the weekend ahead like I usually do, but cooking whatever I’m in the mood for. This is very atypical for me. I’m a Type A planner to a “T”–on Sundays I’ll sift through cookbooks and favorite blogs for recipe ideas, then decide what I’ll make for lunch and dinner for the week and make my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s to buy all the ingredients. I usually take comfort in this routine, knowing what to expect throughout the busy week.

But as in life, menus don’t always go as planned–you run out of eggs, the bread has gone stale, you burn the rice. These mishaps are part of the challenge (and fun!) with cooking. The more comfortable you become, the more agile you’ll be in working with unpredictability.

So I’m not quite sure what’s inspired my recent change in fooditude (food + attitude, cute huh?). I think the 90 degree days in NYC definitely have to do with it–the thought of slaving away over an intensive meal in my hot, cramped kitchen is not appealing. Or maybe it’s been some recent changes in my personal life that have shown me you can never get too comfortable with routine, because you never know when you’ll burn the rice. Regardless of the reason, I’m enjoying the liberation of my newfound fooditude.

On a recent weeknight I came home craving a summery, Mediterranean pasta to find only asparagus in my fridge. What to do, what to do? My new footitude and I set to work looking through my pantry for inspiration…sun-dried tomatoes, whole wheat pasta, and frozen shrimp in the freezer. Perfecto! In less than 30 minutes I was able to cure my summer pasta craving.

Not only was this meal quick and easy to prepare, but all the more fun and exciting because it was my own. Sure, it’s nothing fancy and has probably been done before, but not following a recipe is such a liberating and exhilarating feeling. You never know what you’re gonna get; it’s just you and your taste buds to guide you. Going into the world (er, kitchen) alone and unguided can be intimidating at first, but you’ll always be surprised with what you can overcome–I mean cook–in the end.

Improv Shrimp Pasta

Makes 2 servings (great for lunch the next day)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat penne

2 tbs olive oil, divided

3 tbs onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes

7-8 frozen shrimp, thawed

1 small Roma tomato, chopped (this isn’t necessary, but helps to add a little moisture to the sauce)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

1. Start by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Add a couple tablespoons of salt then stir in the pasta. Cook until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté 2-3 minutes until fragrant and onion starts to become translucent.

3. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and add the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and let that cook for 3-4 minutes more.

4. Add the sun-dried tomatoes until they’re slightly moistened, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and tomatoes. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Stir to combine and let cook for 3 minutes, so the shrimp heats through and flavors combine.

5. Toss shrimp and vegetables in a large bowl with the cooked pasta. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Spoon onto 2 plates, or reserve some for leftovers. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese if desired.

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