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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Tommy Thyme

In honor of the past tradition held by former Editors-in-Chief Sasha and John, I have elected to take up a new food review column—one driven not by fast food frenzy but by homecooked and easy-to-make meals. For those who want to follow along from their prison cells of Brandeis housing kitchens let me begin by telling you all where my recipes are coming from.

As of late, I have begun to visit library book sales. It is a wonderful place where libraries will sell most of their books for no more than $5, and last semester I made it out to one in Bolton. There, with $4 in cash in my wallet, I picked up a couple books; but the one I was most excited about was a cookbook I purchased for one dollar called “365 Great 20-Minute Recipes” by Beverly Cox.

The book, I thought, would be a wonderful introductory book into the wide world of cooking for a college student due to the quick and easy-to-make meals. Like most cookbooks it begins with a section dedicated to the pantry. There it outlines some pantry staples that most kitchens should have, which includes olive oil, butter, pasta and very simple ingredients used in most meals. Fortunately, in helping my mother cook I had covered the bases in that section and had all that they outlined.

The toughest part of the whole process, however, was picking my first meal. I thought that beginning in the “Pasta Presto” section would be good for me as I am fairly confident in my ability to not mess up boiling water. And with all the choices in front of me I decided to settle on one I am not familiar with making: Fettuccine Florentine.

This dish seemed fun but challenging due to the fact that it is not a red sauce meal but rather a white cream sauce! A new and exciting adventure for my culinary journey. The ingredients are simple: fettuccine, butter, olive oil, garlic, baby spinach, light cream (the recipe calls for heavy but it’s more expensive and I prefer light), Parmesan cheese, chicken breast and pepper.

To begin, get your pasta water over a hot burner and begin bringing it to a boil. While that is getting going you can do your prep work on a cutting board. Mincle your garlic clove; you will only need one clove, and throw it into a saute pan with a splash of olive oil and about a tablespoon of butter. Do not heat up the pan yet! Keep it on a cold burner while you filet your chicken breast and begin to cube the meat. Once the entire chicken breast has been cut into bite-sized cubes, throw it all into the saute pan and turn it up to high. 

Most likely your pasta water will have come to a boil and now you can get your pasta cooking while you keep an eye on your saute pan. Once the pasta has been thrown into the boiling water it’s time to stir the saute pan. Make sure the garlic, butter and olive oil all cover the chicken breast cubes as it will increase the natural flavor of the meat. Continue to stir the chicken in the saute pan until it begins to brown on its edges and sides. That means it’s cooked through and now it’s time for the fun part!

Slowly add spinach into the saute pan and stir it until it shrivels up; that is when you will add another handful until your desired amount of spinach has been added to the saute pan. Now for the cream sauce! Once all of the spinach has cooked down slowly pour into the saute pan about half to a quarter of a cup of the light cream. Once the cream begins to bubble all over then you can slowly add little bits of parmesan cheese! DO NOT throw the cheese in all at once as it creates a cheese ball with cream around it rather than the desired cheese sauce. Slowly stir the cheese into the dish and as it melts add another small handful of cheese until the sauce is thick and sticking to the spinach and chicken.

By now the pasta should be cooked to just the right density (adjust based on personal preference of al dente or softer) and once you strain the pasta add it into the saute pan and stir! You can turn the heat off of the burner that the saute pan is on and mix all of your meal’s ingredients together in that one pan. Once it is fully mixed, serve onto a dinner plate, grind some pepper on top and enjoy your meal!

It is a savory yet rich meal which is like alfredo but a little thicker. If you are a fan of mac and cheese but do not want to seem like a child eating it then this is the dish for you. It is only nine simple ingredients and only takes roughly 25 minutes to make (including prep work). So for the college student on a time crunch but still wants a good meal I would give this a nine out of 10.

It sets the bar high and clear as it has become a staple of my kitchen with its infectious cheesy smell and nutritious qualities. Get cooking Brandeis! (For next time I will include a photo of my own creation—for now deal with a photo from the internet you plebs.)

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