Sometimes Cooking Is All About the Kitchen Sink

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When I was a teenager working at a frozen yogurt shop, a friend’s family opened a Mexican food counter across the street where I would buy my lunch. My favorite thing to order was the “kitchen sink” burrito. The concept was simple: the burrito would consist of any stray ingredients that were lying around at the time of my order, resulting in a massive flour tortilla bursting with surprise. Sometimes it would consist of beans, cheese, carne asada, lettuce and tomatoes. While other versions might be pork, fried chitlins, ranchero sauce, sour cream and black beans. It was a concept I enjoyed working into my later life as a cook – one that has also been popularized in shows such as Chopped where contestants are challenged to make food from whatever random assortment of items are found in a basket. In our kitchen at home, the Cute Gardener has become a master at this kind of meal, thinking up innovative fusions of creative cuisine toward the end of the week when our carefully planned meals from the beginning of the week have produced a fridge full of leftovers – odds and ends that inspire new dishes where randomness is key. The best part of this game lies in the way different cultures clash on the plate forging meals with no discernable origin; magically delicious combinations that would never exist in a recipe file or that might never be conjured from a regular chef’s strategic mind. To me, this element of discovery is one of the most satisfying things about being a home cook. Recently, the CG whipped up a shrimp stir fry that became an umami bomb in the mouth, something that we may never have the pleasure to eat again, composed of end of season tomatoes from the garden, stray vegetables in the produce bin, the remains of a bag of frozen shrimp and rarely used seasonings from the spice cabinet. We still don’t know what to call this part Vietnamese, part Indian, part Chinese, part Spanish taste explosion but it is worth noting for any brave readers who might want to attempt its recreation.

Kitchen Sink Shrimp

¼ pound split shrimp
¼ chopped onion
½ julienned turnip
3 cups sliced cauliflower
3 cups chopped yellow grape tomatoes
One bunch mizuna or other Asian green
1 egg
3 cups water
Olive oil
1 tbls. sage
2 tsp. Vietnamese crustacean seasoning salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. dried Aleppo pepper
Salt and pepper
2 servings cooked jasmine rice

On high heat, saute chopped onion and julienned turnip in olive oil until soft. Add yellow tomatoes,  water,  sage, Vietnamese crustacean seasoning salt, cumin, granulated garlic, Aleppo pepper, fresh ground black pepper and salt. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until a cup of liquid remains. Uncover, increase heat to high and add cauliflower. When cauliflower is soft, add shrimp. Toss until shrimp turns orange. Turn off heat. Quickly stir in egg. Toss in mizuna with stems, chopped into 3-inch sections. Serve on jasmine rice.

 

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