Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Frog/Commissary Cookbook

Once upon a time I was gainfully employed with CIGNA Property and Casualty as a Loss Control Representative.  Imagine, me, a career woman traveling Connecticut and then Indiana visiting factories, schools, strip malls, sororities and any place we insured or were looking to insure.  I know, it's really hard to picture.   Maybe that's why I'm still a housewife twenty years later.  Maybe if I was really in the flow with my career it wouldn't have been so easy to leave and never return.  Twenty year-olds should really not make career decisions, but that's the way it works.  Could have stuck with biology after the dream of med school went up in smoke with my gift of a "C" in Honors Calculus first semester at Purdue.  Could have been a landscape architect.  That would have been fun.  But no, switched majors to Supervision because I could still graduate in four years (poor out of state student with barely enough money for four years) and Supervision majors had 98% placement (see the previous explanation in parentheses).

Wow, I can really take the long road to make a point, can't I?  CIGNA P/C was headquartered in Philadelphia.  On my first training visit I discovered this funky and way ahead of it's time restaurant, The Frog/ Commissary.  The first floor was The Commissary and you could order amazing salads, soups, pastas, desserts and everything wonderful cafeteria style.  The second floor was The Frog, a fine dining establishment that I regretfully never tried.  All the food was simply amazing.  Fresh, layers of flavor, creative combinations and beautiful presentation.  Needless to say, I bought the cookbook.

Growing up I only really baked, but as soon as I got married (and that was pretty soon as I was all of 21) I discovered I loved to cook.  If you can read a recipe, you can cook.  I think it's a bit of a gift that I can usually tell from reading the recipe if it will be something I'll love.  When we lived in Japan I would sit on my front step and read cookbooks while my little girls took a nap.  I didn't cook anything from a cookbook in Japan because I had a two-burner gas stove, a tiny microwave and a little refrigerator.  No oven.  Really, it was a lot like camping but without the view.  We lived amongst the masses in Tokyo, 45 minutes on subways from the ex-pat world and their glorious food store.  So, I read recipes and just imagined how delicious they were.  Truly, it was very satisfying.

After many hours spent reading my Frog cookbook with fun sidebars, witty notes and cute illustrations, I tried this recipe years ago for a 500 party.  Northern Italian Rice Salad with Shrimp and Clear Garlic Vinaigrette is a wonderful party salad, you can make it a day ahead (don't add the shrimp until the day of serving) and it's colorful and full of flavor.  Let's just call it Italian Rice/Grain Salad with Shrimp.  I used to make it with white rice (medium or long grain), but for dinner club I made it with wheat berries.  I think orzo or Israeli couscous would be great bases too.  Whatever floats your boat.  I have always made it with shrimp, but the cookbook suggest trying it with chicken and pepperoni.  Hmmmm??  It does sound good.  If you try it, let me know.


Italian Rice/Grain Salad with Shrimp

Vinaigrette

1 C vegetable oil
1/2 C white wine vinegar
1 3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 3/4 tsp pepper
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 C minced Italian/flat parsley

Salad

6 cups cooked rice (3 cups raw), wheat berries, orzo, Israeli couscous or whatever grain you love
3/4 pound cooked peeled shrimp, cut in bite size pieces if large
1 C finely chopped green peppers
1 C finely chopped red peppers
3/4 C finely chopped red onions
1 1/2 C quartered marinated artichoke hearts (try a jar from Trader Joe's)
1/4 C small capers
1/3 C minced Italian/flat parsley
1/3 C minced fresh dill (this makes it, don't skip it)
1/2 C raisins (I know, sounds weird, tastes wonderful)

mixed baby greens, optional

Whisk together all ingredients for the vinaigrette and set aside.

Combine all salad ingredients.  Toss with dressing and marinate several hours.

Serve on bed of greens on individual salad plates if desired.
Greg's parents visiting us in Tokyo, 1994

1 comment:

  1. I have a theory about vocational choice and career development---it is called the Accident Theory, No one hardly ends up doing what they started out to do.

    Jim Horne

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