Off-the-cuff cooking is a skill I believe everyone should possess. Essentially, it is the ability to prepare a dish based on the ingredients available without using a recipe. Often, it means making decisions as you go until you feel the dish is complete. Watch Chopped? That’s off-the-cuff cooking.
Most of the cooking I do is off-the-cuff. I only started using recipes with any frequency in the past year or so. I grew up loving to cook, and would often create dishes with whatever I had available, a skill and passion passed on by my mother.
Being home all day with a young baby (Floyd is almost 11 weeks now) means I do a lot of scrounging around for something in the house that I can prepare and eat as quickly as possible. Oftentimes this means frozen meals and quick sandwiches. But today none of that sounded good, and he was in a pretty chilled out mood, so I decided to actually cook something for lunch.
I knew I had half a box of pasta, so I decided to go with that. I also had half a bunch of kale, and as far as I’m concerned kale goes well in nearly any pasta dish. Finally, I remembered that I had some canned tuna in the cupboard. Why not!?
Then came the nutritional yeast. I love to put nutritional yeast on all kinds of things, especially pasta (it’s great on popcorn too!). If you aren’t familiar with nutritional yeast, I highly recommend trying it. It’s full of b-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein containing all 18 amino acids. Look it up! It smells a little funky, but it tastes awesome.
The final dish was absolutely delicious, kind of weird, and totally indicative of my less-than-typical palate. Here’s what I came up with (I don’t use measurements when cooking off the cuff):
– approximately half a pound of fiori pasta
– half a bunch of organic kale
– one can albacore tuna
– extra-virgin olive oil
– rice vinegar
– organic tamari soy sauce
– ground Thai chili
Start by putting your pasta water on to boil. Always use a good sized pot with plenty of water. You shouldn’t cook pasta in anything less than six quarts of water. One of my biggest kitchen pet peeves is seeing people cook pasta in tiny sauce pans (usually macaroni and cheese).
While your water comes to a boil, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.
Chop kale into bite-sized pieces, add to skillet, and toss with tongs. Keep tossing the kale every ten seconds or so until it is all wilted and the color becomes a deeper green.
When your water comes to a boil, add your pasta and a good amount of salt. In addition to using a large enough pot with enough water, adding a lot of salt to the water is the other factor necessary to cook good pasta. As they say in Italy, it should be as salty as the sea.
When the kale is somewhat tender (should be about the time you add the pasta), add several dashes of rice vinegar and toss.
Add some ground Thai chili to reach your desired spice level.
Turn heat down to low. Open up your can of tuna, drain, rinse, and add to the kale. Drizzle in a good amount of olive oil – maybe five tablespoons or so. Toss.
When your pasta is just al dente, strain, add to skillet, and toss. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of soy sauce and toss again.
Plate and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Enjoy!