The simple things in life are so wonderful: a perfectly cooked egg, a pile of homemade french fries, an evenly cooked, perfectly grilled, salt-and-pepper-seasoned slab of beef …
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good fine-dining adventure that bends the limits of what is culinarily expected. Food made in liquid nitrogen or a sauce thickened with xantham gum seem to be the wave of the future, but deep in the pit of my soul, I love nothing more than a perfectly simple dining experience.
A perfect example of simplicity done perfectly is a Cuban dish I enjoyed in Montclair, N.J. Crispy fried pork butt, a slice of lime, cilantro leaves and a touch of kosher salt. I am a bit biased because of my obsession with pork, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Have you ever taken some artichoke hearts, tossed them in red-wine vinegar, kosher salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil? Heaven. The recipe pretty much works for any vegetable. I love taking a can of garbanzo beans and tossing them in salt, pepper and a little olive oil with some fresh or even dry herbs.
Recently I catered a private chef dinner. One of the courses was shrimp risotto with sweet peas and a simple, perfect arugula salad. I have included a recipe for this dish below.
SHRIMP RISOTTO (Serves 2)
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 pound shrimp
2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup frozen sweet peas
3 cups chicken broth, hot
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup arugula
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Toast rice in one tablespoon butter with chopped garlic and dried oregano and basil for five minutes. Add hot chicken broth, 1 cup at a time while constantly stirring, only adding after each cup is absorbed. When rice is al dente, add Mascarpone, sweet peas and fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper and finish with one tablespoon of butter.
Make sure your shrimp is peeled and deveined properly. Sauté in olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
Combine ingredients for arugula salad separately.
Spread risotto to cover bottom of dinner plate. Risotto should have a creamy texture. Place sautéed shrimp in middle and arugula salad over the top.
Something doesn’t always have to be covered in sauce, flambéed or frozen with nitrogen to excite.
To try this dish and others by Gene Philbin of Peculiar Culinary Company, visit and like the Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/PeculiarCulinaryCompany or at the company website at www.peculiarculinary.com.
Peculiar Culinary Company hosts Pop Up (temporary) restaurants each month in the greater Pittston area and caters private and corporate events. Our next Pop Up Restaurant has a burger theme and will take place on Thursday with limited reservations available at the Hughestown Fire Hall. Call 570-212-0960 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.