'Refrigerator potluck' down-home name for hit skillet dish PDF   E-mail
Written by By KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor   
Wednesday, 04 March 2009

Is Norma Davenport actually the Frugal Gourmet in disguise?
Obviously not, but her Cook’s Corner recipe for this week would make the famous television chef proud.
She calls it Italian Clean-Out-Refrigerator Potluck. The name is deliberately low rent, but the taste is scrumptious.
“It was at Family Service that this lady in the waiting room gave me this recipe,” says Davenport, who works part-time as a counselor in the agency’s Bowling Green office. “She was not a client; she was waiting on a family member.
“I think I had copied a recipe for her — we had gotten to talking about recipes. And she said, ‘I’ve got a recipe that is a sure winner. Now, everybody asks for it in the family when we have a potluck. And there won’t be any left!’
“And I said, ‘Oh good: I want that recipe!’”
Once she got home and tried it out herself, Davenport was even more grateful.
“It’s truly become one of my favorites, and now people usually ask me for the recipe when I serve it!”
She suggests pairing it with garlic bread or your favorite crusty bread.
“I think I served it with fruit salad. I very seldom serve it with (vegetable) salad because it has so many vegetables in it already.”

Davenport admits it was tough for her to actually transcribe the recipe as she makes it for Cook’s Corner readers.
“It was really hard to write this, because depending on what’s in your refrigerator you can embellish it. If it needs a little more sauce you can add a bit more. If it needs a little more herbs, add more. Some people like fresh parsley from the garden.”
Regardless of ingredient variations, “it’s easy, because it all goes into one container. I usually cut up all the vegetables at one time. So that once I’ve sauteed the chicken and the pasta, it goes quickly.”
Davenport was raised in California’s San Fernando Valley.
After raising her three children she returned to college at age 47, enrolling at the University of Findlay while operating a sewing and alterations business in that city. After the children were grown she was remarried, to Tom Davenport, a graphic design professor in the College of Art at Bowling Green State University. Following their 1988 wedding she closed the business in Findlay, and moved up to BG the following year.
Here, Davenport took full advantage of the fee waiver she had as the spouse of a BGSU professor. “I was like a kid in a candy store! I got two degrees in nine years, ending up with a master’s in guidance and counseling at age 54. That was a privilege.”
She has combined her interests in food and counseling in creative ways.
“The last three years, I’ve done a Fall Gathering of Women in my home.I invite them each to bring a dish. We turn off the cell phones. I try to mix up” the guest list, including people from different ethnic backgrounds. “Some are artists, writers, musicians. It’s confidential; what’s said there, stays there. And now I get people asking when the next one will be! It’s a gift I give to myself.”
Marriage to Tom Davenport also benefited her culinary skills.
“My husband thought he was part-Italian because his first wife,” who had died, “was Italian. So he would make great meals. He kind of inspired me; he made me conscious of good pasta.”
Now widowed, Davenport doesn’t let that be an excuse for eating poorly.
“Now that I’m cooking for one, I find that very easy.  How long does it take you to saute a salmon? I eat very well: fresh fruit and fresh vegetables.
“When I go on vacation I look forward to getting home and going to Krogers! Some people enjoy eating out all the time,” but not Davenport.
Her in-the-city garden always features tomatoes, a few herbs, and flowers, with the emphasis on container gardening. She hits up the farmers’ market for any other vegetables.
That’s one secret to her refrigerator potluck. Topping good quality vegetables with a fabulous pasta broth and melted cheese yields a dish that is “a crowd pleaser and any leftovers can be frozen in smaller portions for a later meal.”

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
one half onion, diced
2-3 servings Angel Hair pasta
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 small cans chicken broth
3-4 small tomatoes
1 pkg. or 1 box broccoli pieces, fresh or frozen
small yellow summer squash
1 large portabello mushroom
1/2 cup diced frozen green peppers
boneless chicken strips (optional)
1 cup of favorite shredded cheese topping
Minced garlic, seasoning salt, ground pepper, herbs, as desired
In a large skillet, add olive oil and butter. Saute diced onions and Angel Hair pasta, broken in half. After onions are cooked and pasta is lightly brown, add 1-2 cans of chicken broth depending upon pasta amount. Sprinkle sugar over pasta. Bring broth and pasta mixture to a simmer; then add cut up broccoli, tomatoes, portabello mushrooms, squash, peppers or whatever vegetables you wish to use.
Simmer with lid on top for approximately 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are tender and the chicken broth is cooked down into a sauce.
Add pre-cooked, cut up chicken pieces if desired. I simply saute boneless chicken strips ahead of time and add to vegetable-pasta mixture during the last few minutes just before serving. Add seasoning salt, minced garlic, ground pepper and whatever herbs are available.
Finally, top with cheese. Turn off the heat, put lid back on and let the cheese melt. When it’s melted the dish is ready to serve.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 27 April 2009 )
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