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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 9, 2010

Top 10 must-have ingredients


By Steve Petusevsky
Sun Sentinel

I've been on way too many planes lately. As much as I like the peace and solitude, along with the fact that there is no phone and e-mail, it can be quite boring. Last night, as I was waiting for yet another flight, I decided to entertain myself with a spontaneous food game called, "Desert Island Must Haves."

Maybe you've played the music version? What music would you absolutely need to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

In the kitchen version, I tried to come up with a list of five critical ingredients. But 10 was the best I could do. I think your selection says a bunch about one's personality. In fact, back in the day when I worked for Whole Foods Market, we used to actually have a game that matched people up according to what they had placed in their shopping cart. I guess it's no different than wardrobe, book tastes or art.

So here is my top 10 list of ingredients that I would have to have if I were stranded on a desert island: basil; hot chili peppers; ginger; garlic; onion; limes or lemons; pasta of any kind; basmati and brown rice (I counted these as 1); olive oil; parmesan cheese.

Trust me, this was really hard to do and I feel terrible about not being able to include other favorites like arugula, potatoes, polenta, lemongrass, sesame oil and olives. But here are two recipes that show what I'd do with them.

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SPICY RIGATONI WITH LEMON, CHILI AND SPINACH

1 pound rigatoni or penne pasta

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes

4 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Cook pasta al dente, according to directions. Rinse in cold water and drain well. This step can be done up to 2 days prior to preparing remainder of recipe.

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat.

Add garlic and chili flakes. Saute for 1 minute until garlic just begins to take on a golden color. Immediately add cooked pasta and saute for 2 minutes to heat through.

Add spinach and saute 1 minute longer until wilted. Add lemon juice and parmesan. Serves 4.

Per serving: 521 calories, 17 percent calories from fat, 10 grams total fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 89 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams total fiber, 5 grams total sugars, 84 grams net carbs, 22 grams protein, 225 milligrams sodium.

BASIL GINGER CASHEW PILAF

Add any favorite vegetable to this rice, especially if you have trimmed and cut veggies lurking around your crisper. Feel free to add fresh minced scallions and sesame seeds to this dish as a garnish before serving.

2 cups basmati rice

2 teaspoons peanut oil

2 teaspoons dark roasted sesame oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger root

1 large carrot, peeled, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cashews

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded

Cook the basmati rice according to directions, until just tender. Set aside. This step can be done up to 2 days prior to assembling recipe.

Heat peanut and sesame oils in a large non-stick saute pan or wok.

Add onion, ginger root, carrot, celery, pepper and cashews. Saute for 2 minutes until vegetables are barely tender and cashews start to pick up some color.

Add cooked rice and stir well. Saute to heat through, adding a bit of water to encourage steaming of rice.

Add soy sauce and basil.

Serves 4-6.

Per serving (based on 6 servings): 315 calories, 16 percent calories from fat, 6 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 66 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams total fiber, 2 grams total sugars, 63 grams net carbs, 5 grams protein, 109 milligrams sodium.

Steve Petusevsky is a freelance writer in Coral Springs, Fla.

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(c) 2010, Sun Sentinel.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.