Sexy Shrimp Carbonara

**WARNING: excessive bacon fat and cholesterol follow**

At the beginning of this week, a rare and beautiful thing happened. I was down at the bottom of the financial barrel, waiting for a check in the mail. I went to check my bank account before buying a few groceries. To my astonishment, my bank account balance had shot up into the 4-digit range. Baffled, I looked into the transaction history to see a deposit from ASCAP – my very first royalty payment from my first feature film. What a miracle. Could not have come at a better time.

Of course, this called for a celebration. And how does the starving artist celebrate? Food, of course. One of my favorite indulgences is carbonara, which is essentially bacon, eggs, and cheese. What could possibly be bad about that? Not only is it wildly unhealthy, but it is not really that cheap, particularly when you’re adding shrimp. This is what I call a “payday” recipe – the kind of recipe you make when you’ve just gotten paid and have a little extra money to burn. But I’m still the starving artist – payday doesn’t mean you have to spend ALL your money. Pasta is always cheap, the cheese I got fresh at Trader Joe’s for $4, eggs were on sale for $2/dozen, and the shrimp I got from my local market for $8.99/pound. Is it the best quality shrimp ever? No, but it is by no means the worst and worked brilliantly in this dish. And speaking of cheese, never EVER use the cheese in the green can you find on the same shelf as the pasta. If you’re going to do that, you may as well just make some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and call it a night. Fresh grated cheese is always always worth the extra cost. Many grocery stores will grate their own cheese and sell it in plastic containers either in their fresh/gourmet cheese display or with the pre-packaged cheeses and usually for a really reasonable price. Trader Joe’s is great for this, of course. Also, you may find recipes that call for cream – I call BS. Unneeded. Copout.

Moral of the story: this recipe is a knockout. And the good news is that you can just leave the shrimp out entirely. Not only would that make it an everyday kind of recipe, you’d still have an outstanding meal you could use to get yourself a husband. And believe me, this recipe is a husband finder: rich, gooey, full of bacon….  honestly I can only make this dish for special occasions because every time I eat it I feel like years are being shaved off the end of my life. It’s THAT rich and indulgent. But honestly? It’s kind of worth it. ;-)

Sexy Shrimp Carbonara (Recipe PDF)

Rosemary Roasted Figs with Goat Cheese

Ok I know you’re all like wtf, the starving artist is roasting figs? What’s next? Lobster? Foie gras?!?! Well let me say that I am first and foremost all about the food. Whether it’s grilled cheese made with wonder bread and kraft singles or roasting figs with rosemary, nothing is out of range for the starving artist. And come on, do you think I would really undertake much less post a pretentious and/or obnoxious recipe? Fear not, dear readers.

There are lots of fresh fruit in season right now in SoCal and it just so happened that Trader Joe’s had some lovely fresh figs on sale. When I saw them I remember attending a party a few months back that had figs roasted with honey and rosemary… an unexpected and divine combination, which you’ll recall I had in some classed up rice krispie treats at my first summer cookout last weekend. So, I decided I would just do it. I sliced all the figs (about 12) in half, tossed them in a little olive oil followed by a few tablespoons of warmed honey. A light sprinkle of salt, few grinds of black pepper, the leaves of one sprig of fresh rosemary, and into the oven they went at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until they were soft and a bit caramelized from the honey. Yum. But I didn’t stop there. While they were still warm I topped them with a dollop of goat cheese, turning them into a delightfully sweet and creamy treat. A perfect party appetizer or bite-sized dessert to eat with coffee.

Quick Noodles and Peas

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Last night I was in the mood for two things: 1) a hot meal 2) spending little or no money. I found half a bag of whole wheat egg noodles and decided that noodles with butter, garlic, veggies, and cheese would be perfection. I always have peas in my freezer, I always have fresh garlic, always have an onion, and I usually have some kind of grated cheese shoved in the back of the fridge so that I forget about it and am not tempted to make red sauce. I decided that I wanted something more than peas in this dish, so I did go to the store and buy a $2.50 pack of sliced cremini mushrooms – my favorite. And I had all I needed.

Assembly is, as always with me, a total breeze. Get the water boiling and the noodles cooking. Place two cups of frozen peas in a small strainer and rinse them under hot tap water until the chill is gone and they have softened a bit. Set aside to drain. While the I got outmy large skillet and began to sautee the mushrooms in butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the mushrooms began to soften and darken, I added 1/2 cup of chopped red onion and let it simmer for another 2 minutes. Then came 2 cloves of finely minced garlic (or you can run it through a presser). Finally 2 cups of frozen peas that I rinsed under hot tap water for a minute and allowed to drain

Get Well Grilled Cheese

So even though I was ill, I still had to eat… a little… One perk to being sick is that you pretty much get carte blanche to eat whatever horrible, comforting foods you want. I have to confess I was kind of glad/excited that one of the side effects to one of the meds I was on was reduced appetite – is that bad? I remembered fondly the line from Emily Blunt’s character in The Devil Wears Prada: “I’m just a stomach flu away from my goal weight.” Oh good times. But at the end of the day I had to eat something and I wanted to be comforted. So, after my second trip to the pharmacist I went to the grocery store. I stocked up on orange juice, crackers, and Velveeta slices. I’m a firm believer that a true, classic grilled cheese needs American cheese. Normally it’s Kraft singles, but I love me some Velveeta and they were on sale. So there. I also happen to be a whole wheat bread kind of guy, though I know many would argue that white is the way to go. I always keep sprouted wheat bread in my fridge, so that’s what I used here. When I do a grilled cheese, there’s two things I like to add: thinly sliced tomato and a smear of spicy brown mustard. I tell you I cannot remember the last time I made grilled cheese. It was a glorious event. And of course I didn’t make just one. As you can see from the pic, I topped this one with a fried egg, another of my all time favorite comfort foods. Delish. And of course, you always fry in butter in a cast iron skillet.

Sorry this picture is so boring. Clearly my photography skills suffer when I’m ill, but luckily not my culinary prowess. What’s your go-to food when you’re sick?