American Cooks may be the Ones to Beat, Finally.

Tonight I just made Giada’s Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce. It was delicious. A pound of penne and a pound of shrimp–what could be better? The sauce involved cream, white wine, clam juice, tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley. My family fell in love with it too. “Dinner was Dynamite,” I believe is what my father said. “Connie Ann, anytime you want to cook, it will be fully funded” – my mom’s words.

I saw the picture on foodnetwork.com and decided to make it. I’ve been wanting to do something special with penne lately, and in today’s 100 degree heat, seafood sounded fantastic. So, off I went to Harris Teeter. I love H.T., really. I fell in love the moment I stepped in the door. The selection there is amazing. It’s catnip for foodies like myself.

I was thinking today, and really it’s true that the Food Network has really done an amazing job of elevating the quality of food in American home kitchens today. While it might have been Julia Child who started the movement, the Food Network has become the primary light-bearer in a dark world of boring processed food. The real exciting part is this:  

The Food Network is creating a definable American cuisine.

Not that we didn’t have American cuisine before the Food Network, but it was hard to define (or else the box was too small?). Yes, there was apple pie and regionally-influenced hot dogs, but (while those are still delicious) that was the America of the past. Today’s American food is the fulfillment of the “melting pot” metaphor. The Food Network has created awareness among every-day cooks about ingredients and dishes from across the country. Thanks to new ingredients, whimsical combinations, and good ol’ American ingenuity, modern American cuisine is the world’s most exciting culinary frontier (however unexpected and unorthodox that statement might be).

So to all you American cooks out there, in the words of Jaques, ” ‘Appy Cooking!” and may the force be with you.

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Following Jaques…

I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately. When I was supposed to be working on a writing assignment, I ended up making salad dressing instead. Strange, I know, but it was really fun.

Inspired by my new idol, Jaques Pepin, I pulled out all my spices and base ingredients and began work on creating 3 salad dressings: Creamy Southwestern, Honey-Dijon, and Honey Sesame Vinegarette.

For the Creamy Southwestern, I had vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, cilantro, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and a little sugar. I can’t tell you the exact measurements because I kept adding a little of this and little of that until it tasted PERFECT.

My Honey-Dijon began with olive oil, vegetable oil, and a touch of apple cider vinegar. Then I added a big squirt of dijon mustard, some honey, black pepper, and (here’s the most important part) Oregano and Garlic. At the end I added a little more oil and sugar to cut down on the bite of the mustard, and then at the very end, a tiny tiny bit of mayo for texture. It was perfect.

Honey Sesame Vinegarette was the easiest – Vegetable oil base, tiny bit of sesame oil (a little goes a LONG way), a small amount of apple cider vinegar, a squirt of honey, black pepper, and a bit of hoisin sauce and sugar. I didn’t have any sesame seeds, but i would have added them as well, mostly for cosmetic reasons. Anyways it tasted perfect.

Salad dressing took up my morning, so I didn’t really get any work done. Hours later, I’m just now settling down by my computer with beautiful looking cup of coffee. Being a rainy day, I decided to get fancy with my drink, just to have a little fun. I actually used white chocolate mocha flavored creamer and a squirt of chocolate syrup, and topped the whole thing off with whipped cream and red sprinkles – smells like Christmas. Sometimes a girl’s gotta do little things like this.