I've mentioned in previous columns my love for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.
Whether I'm trying out a new kitchen gadget or incorporating an unfamiliar ingredient, the process of cooking is what I enjoy most.
Part of the process involves introducing myself to new techniques inspired by the celebrity Food Network chefs, who ultimately help transform some of my basic entrees into more restaurant-quality meals. In my amateur opinion anyway.
Take "Barefoot Contessa" with Ina Garten, for example. During one episode she featured a recipe for Linguini with Shrimp Scampi. It combined all the base ingredients - butter, olive oil, kosher salt, ground black pepper and minced garlic - for a shrimp pasta recipe I concocted a while back.
Here's how it works.
After a quick saute of the base ingredients, shrimp (peeled and deveined), chopped asparagus and a quarter cup of white drinking wine gets tossed in (I like my veggies with a slight crunch so I make sure and not take them too far). In salted boiling water, I cook the linguini until it's al dente (meaning it still has a bite to it). Before draining, creating what Rachael Ray calls a "pasta facial," I reserve a cup of pasta water just in case the sauce needs a touch more moisture. At this point, it's time to combine the veggies, pasta, a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes and top with freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley.
Unlike my recipe, Ina threw in the zest and juice of a lemon - a flavor element I would have never dreamed up - so I gave it a whirl.
Using my hand-held zester, I gently peeled ribbons of lemon zest, careful not to collect the bitter pith. Slicing the lemon in half, I squeezed the juice into the saute pan once the shrimp and asparagus were cooked to my liking. When combined with the pasta, I tossed in the lemon zest ribbons.
For readers who may have not tried this recipe, it's a definite must. Simple and relatively inexpensive.
While the bulk of my culinary inspiration comes from Food Network, other recipes spring from sheer curiosity.
After a night at camp in Thayer's Lake a couple weeks back, I found myself with leftover shredded mozzarella cheese and pepperoni from pizza pudgie pies. While unpacking my cooler, I noticed a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the refrigerator bin.
Who says pepperoni is only for pizza and pudgie pies?
I decided to pound out the chicken and do my own take on a chicken roll-up.
Between sheets of plastic wrap I flattened out the chicken with the smooth side of a mallet. Seasoning with salt and pepper, I topped each piece with a layer of shredded mozzarella and a single layer of pepperoni (about five pieces). In the meantime, I had toothpicks soaking in water since I was planning on heading out to the grill.
Securing each roll-up with three toothpicks, I started the bundles off in a hot saute pan with garlic and olive oil, browning each side.
Next stop, the Weber over medium heat. I created a crushed garlic and white wine basting sauce which I brushed on liberally while turning the chicken.
The final step, once it was off the grill, was tenting the chicken under tin foil.
My Food Network friends say the number one rule is to let the meat rest so the juices redistribute. And, it works every time.
Turns out my recipe was a tasty success, although it has yet to be named.
Editor's note: Kelly Fosness is a staff writer for the Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton.