A passion for life, and especially for food, led Ron Murdock to live and work throughout the country. While retired, he enjoys cooking at a day care center in Kansas City, Kansas, and lives in a loft in downtown Kansas City.
Q: When did you first discover your love of cooking?
I was born in Kansas City, but we soon moved to Nebraska. I spent summers with my grandparents, who gardened and grew all kinds of vegetables. They only bought what they could not raise, so I was eating “farm-to-table” in the 1950s, long before it was popular. I have never met a vegetable I didn’t like.
My mother did not like to cook but loved to bake and I watched her. One time when I was about 12, she was away for the day and I baked a loaf of bread.
Q: Do you cook often?
I love to cook and enjoy hosting dinner parties. I work at a day care and enjoy cooking for the children. I find many of the children do not have the opportunity to taste good and nutritious foods, so I cook a variety of recipes, including quinoa. I make a fresh herb and yogurt dip the children love with fresh vegetables.
Q: You have lived in different parts of the country and traveled extensively. How has that influenced your cooking?
I went to college in Lexington, Missouri, and Denver, Colorado, then moved to southern California in 1968. Los Angeles in the 1970s was just beginning to become a hot spot for young chefs and great food. While I worked for IBM and in direct mail marketing, cooking was my passion.
I then studied at a culinary school in Vermont and that opened the door to many food experiences. I got a job cooking for the Singer family, a prestigious family who lived in Wilmington, Delaware, yet spent winters in Florida and summers at Martha’s Vineyard. They loved to entertain, and I was able to enjoy the fresh, local ingredients each location offered.
I shared my love of cooking with the family and their guests. Mrs. Singer collected her recipes, and the recipes of her many friends, into a cookbook. The recipe I am sharing today was in that cookbook.
Q: Tell us about Pentagon Shrimp.
It is a delicious dish that you can serve for a dinner party. I enjoy the fact that you can prepare much of the dish the day before the party, so you can relax and enjoy your guests.
Q: What are your cooking tips?
I suggest watching cooking shows on television to learn to cook. I especially enjoy watching Alton Brown and Jacques Pepin as they are great teachers.
I shop smart. I go to different stores, even discount stores, but always try to buy the best ingredients.
I have learned that a pretty presentation is important. When I first started cooking, I thought if food tasted good, that was enough. But now I realize that it must be attractively presented.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped celery tops
½ cup chili sauce
½ teaspoon each dried thyme leaves, curry powder and cayenne
1 bay leaf
3½ cups diced canned tomatoes with liquid or 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, not drained
½ cup golden raisins
2 to 2½ pounds medium shelled and deveined shrimp
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hot, cooked brown or white rice
Slivered almonds, toasted
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or deep, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green bell pepper, onion, celery and celery tops. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are translucent. Stir in the chili sauce, seasonings, tomatoes and raisins. Heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in the shrimp. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are done and begin to turn pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve over hot, cooked rice. Garnish with toasted almonds.
To prepare ahead, saute the vegetables, then simmer as directed. Do not add the shrimp. Remove from heat and transfer to a shallow dish, cover and refrigerate. The next day, return the mixture to a Dutch oven or deep skillet and heat until hot and bubbly, stirring frequently. Stir in the shrimp and cook as directed.
This dish is excellent accompanied with asparagus.
To toast the slivered almonds, spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 6 minutes or until golden and toasted.
Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over 11 cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com. Email them at KCComeIntoMyKitchen@gmail.com.