Geoff Schwartz was simmering.
The relatively barren condo in Clifton, New Jersey, where he has been staying until he can move into his new home in the area, doesn't have much in the way of culinary luxuries. Schwartz bemoaned the electric range, growled at the dull knife -- "This isn't my good one," he said, excusing its inefficiency while explaining that the better tool is in North Carolina awaiting the move north -- and even mocked the emptiness of his refrigerator.
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But the thing that really got him steamed while lining up the ingredients for this meal, the imperfection that made him wince and clench his fists in the air with frustration as if he'd just allowed a sack, was the pasta.
"Dang, I should have gotten the fresh pasta," he said, treating the missing item like a missed block while sliding a fistful of the boxed stuff into a pot of boiling water.
Of course, it didn't stop the Giants' new starting left guard from slurping down two helpings of the dish he created. And despite the missing ingredient, it's clear that cooking brings as much pleasure to the 6-6, 340-pounder as eating does.
He made his go-to meal, one of his favorites to eat and one of the first he learned to cook. Shrimp with pasta and tomatoes. His huge, crooked football fingers held the tiny cloves of garlic as he chop-chop-chopped them. Using the back of a spatula, he squished the cooking tomatoes, squeezing their juice into the pan. Then, with an adept flip of the wrist, he tossed the entire concoction in the air, where it hung for a silent moment, like a breathless crowd watching a Hail Mary pass, before landing back in the pan to sizzling applause.
This is what Schwartz wants to do when his days in the NFL are over. Not just cook, but cook for an audience. Host his own show on a cooking network. Maybe even co-host with his brother Mitchell, a lineman for the Browns.
"I think people would enjoy it, seeing an athlete's point of view as far as cooking," Schwartz said. "I'm not a guy who's going to be making a lot of salads. A lot of meat and a lot of deliciousness all around."
Eventually, this Emeril of the O-line said he'll have his new teammates over and cook for them. Probably not until he moves into the house he closed on this past week. When the Giants do make it over, the menu most likely will feature ribs.
"I love to get on the smoker and smoke ribs," he said. "I've done beef ribs, lamb ribs, pork ribs . . . I'd get on the grill. Everybody loves ribs. They're the easiest to make for a big group of guys."
It's also a good way to endear yourself to new teammates, as Schwartz learned the past two seasons when he played in Minnesota and Kansas City on one-year deals.
Geoff the Chef began his love of cooking as most chefs do. By eating.
"Growing up, obviously I ate a lot to get to this size," he said. "When I was about 10 or 12 years old, I just decided that I wanted to cook my own food. I wanted to feed myself and I wanted the food to taste good. So throughout the years, I've picked up steam as a chef, especially getting my own place and my own kitchen."
Schwartz said he never has taken a cooking class and is self-taught. If he goes to a restaurant and enjoys a meal, he'll come home and either look up the recipe on the Internet or deconstruct it as best he can. That's how he learned to make snapper Hemingway, one of the more challenging dishes in his repertoire.
"I lightly bread the snapper, pan-sear it real quick, then throw it in the oven and make a sauce with crab, chopped clams, cream, wine, shallots and butter," he said. "Any time I do fish, it can be tough because you never want to overcook it. Stuffed fish can be a little tricky sometimes."
Living and playing so close to New York also opens some culinary doors for him as he explores the city and its numerous haunts. The best meal he's had since joining the Giants, he said, was at a Cuban restaurant in the Bronx named Havana Café. "Paella, we had rib eye, we had skirt steak, we had green rice, we had a spicy shrimp dish, we had a shrimp pizza," he said. "It was all-in."
Schwartz said he likes ethnic food with its charged-up spices and distinct palettes.
He's still only 27 years old, but NFL linemen turn faster than an avocado left on the counter. In a matter of a few years, his gridiron career will come to an end, as all of them do. That will give him plenty of time to chop and mince and sauté. To go from football to foodie on a full-time basis. And maybe even do it on TV.
"I wouldn't call myself a creative person," Schwartz said. "I don't draw, I don't make videos, I don't do a lot of photography. I think this is just a way to be creative and kind of make things out of nothing."
GEOFF SCHWARTZ’S SHRIMP AND PASTA
1 pound linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1-inch squares
1/14 cup white wine
1 cup chopped basil, plus additional for garnish
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese for garnish
1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil, add the pasta
2. While the pasta is cooking, to a preheated skillet (large enough to hold shrimp, sauce and pasta), add olive oil on medium heat.
3. Add the garlic, cook until lightly brown, about 30 seconds.
4. Add the tomatoes and cook 4-5 minutes, until tender.
5. Take the back of a spatula or a potato masher and crush tomatoes to begin to create a sauce.
6. Stir in white wine, 1 tablespoon butter and chopped basil. Cook 2-3 minutes. 7. Add shrimp, cook until it is pink all the way through.
8. Add the last tablespoon of butter.
9. While the shrimp is cooking, drain the pasta. When the shrimp is ready, add the pasta to the pan, let it soak up all the flavor.
10. Plate and garnish with additional chopped basil and Parmesan cheese.
Makes 4 servings