It may come as a surprise to learn that I wasn’t always particularly thoughtful about, or interested in, food and its preparation. As you read my weekly (okay, sometimes bi-monthly) recipes and other various compositions about meals, sourcing food locally, and healthy eating, it likely seems that I’ve been immersed in the culinary and agricultural landscapes for most of my life – and perhaps the seeds were indeed there – but in truth, I didn’t cook at all until I was in my early twenties.
I can pinpoint landmark memories throughout my culinary journey: unwillingly participating in caring for our family vegetable garden as a child; making chocolate chip cookies (and a mess) in my best friends’ kitchen as a teen; watching a close college friend prepare spaghetti sauce, and admittedly feeling somewhat inadequate because I had no idea how to do that myself.
Now, with the clarity of hindsight, I can see the hints of interest and enjoyment were there all along. They just needed a little time and aging, like a fine wine. It’s been about five years since the moment it dawned on me that I truly enjoy cooking. That I actually found pleasure – and relaxation – in the process of chopping, mixing, sauteing, baking, serving.
It was during a time in my professional career when I was struggling – unhappy in a job that was extraordinarily stressful and emotionally taxing – and I didn’t have much energy or enthusiasm when I got home at night. Despite this – or maybe even because of it – one night I decided to go rogue (meaning no recipe, unheard of for me in those days), and just throw a pasta dish together. Undoubtedly, my courage was bolstered by the glass of Chardonnay I’d already consumed.
A short time later, chopped onion and garlic were sauteing in butter, mussels (admittedly, from a frozen package) had been added, and I boldly decided I could sacrifice some of my wine for the betterment of the sauce. In the end, the only “healthy” part of that meal was probably the whole wheat penne (and not the half-stick of butter in the sauce), but it was tasty – and more importantly, it was fun. The recipe I share today is another from the Vaughn kitchen – an evolved version of this very first experiment. It serves 2-4, depending on how much seafood and pasta you make.
- 3 tablespoons butter (or a combination of butter and olive oil)
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped or diced
- 1 cup portabello mushrooms, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 glove garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb – 1 lb Raw seafood of your choice (I like a mix of scallops, or bay scallops, and shrimp)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (or milk or half-and-half to cut calories and fat)
- Pasta of your choice (I often use whole wheat penne)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Set water to boil and cook pasta per package directions.
Melt butter over medium heat and add onion. Saute briefly before adding mushrooms and garlic. Saute until onion is soft and mushrooms are brown. I typically toss in a splash of the white wine at this point (it creates such a fun sizzle in the pan!), and then I add the seafood, slowly incorporating the remainder of the wine as the seafood cooks. Finish by stirring in the heavy cream, and season to taste. Combine with pasta and serve.
This is a recipe to adjust to your tastes – in fact, I’m not sure that my 1/2 cup wine, 1/4 cup cream measurements are entirely accurate, because I rarely measure them. I pour an amount that feels right, then taste the sauce and adjust quantities accordingly. You could easily add a combination of cheeses, like asiago and parmesan, for a thicker, cheesy sauce. I’ve included veggies ranging from broccoli to spinach or kale at times (this is so I can pretend my cream sauce is “healthy”).
I hope you enjoy this recipe, if you try it. I also hope you learn to experiment on your own, if you don’t already. For me, it transformed meal preparation from a task that was necessary to survival to an opportunity to focus on creating (and leave all that work stress behind).