Pasta Alberto

This is Marie with a short chapter about cooking experiments in general and a recipe of my father’s in particular. My father likes to experiment with food and is much more allergic to the concept of following recipes than I am. I just change ingredients and proportions; he throws instructions out entirely and uses recipes solely as a source of inspiration. When he sent me this recipe, it was with the instruction that I play with it and report back. I am including the recipe itself, as it’s completely typical of my dad…note that there is only one unit of measurement in the whole thing:

Red/yellow/ green bell peppers
Roma or other flavorful tomatoes
Red/yellow onions
Olive oil
Salt to taste (watch your blood pressure)
Black pepper
One stick of butter
Shrimp or diced chicken breast


Banana peppers
Cayenne pepper
Chili powder
Other spices and flavors can be added, but I do not recommend peanut butter or soy sauce.

One difficulty with following this sort of recipe is that if something works particularly well, it can be hard to figure out which variation actually caused the positive result. On the other hand, one will never get bored because the final result always changes, and there’s no problem if all the peppers in the grocery store look like they got hit with the Uglifier Ray; just pick a different veggie. Do try to use fresh garlic rather than the dried stuff if possible.

I decided that my vegetables would be some of the wonderfully fresh farmer’s market zucchini, tomatoes, and red peppers acquired just the other day. The meat was of course going to be some of the frozen shrimp I bought on my last visit home (locally caught and purchased from the wife of the shrimper–the very best kind!) There is absolutely no way for me to recall how much I used of anything. However, the specific spices used were pepper, the Penzeys Italian blend (sorry, Dad, I didn’t have time to go to the store for fresh herbs…though I am sure they would have been AMAZING!) Adobo spice, and a small amount of lemon pepper seasoning to brighten up the shrimp a bit.

I sauteed the veggies just to soften them up a bit and then started working on the sauce. I was rather dubious about using an entire stick of butter, but it melted into the olive oil beautifully and combined with the spices. Once the chopping was done everything came together very quickly; once you decide on your proportions this is a very good weekday cook-something-in-a-hurry-because-traffic-stunk sort of meal.