Monday, July 7, 2008

Tomato Sauce

Maybe I was a fat Italian woman in a previous life, stirring my tomato sauce. It is a wonderful comfort food and I love to make tomato sauce.

You can use your favorite tomato sauce recipe (if you do, slice rather than mince the garlic for more flavor) or use mine: Mince an onion, a carrot and a celery stick and saute in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until soft. Add 2 or 3 peeled, thinly sliced garlic cloves for 30 seconds then add a 28 ounce can of tomatoes, some fresh or dried oregano and/or basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes or longer. Now, some ideas for changing that sauce:

√ Add red pepper flakes when you add the onion for a spicy sauce.

√ Brown some ribs with the vegetables.

√ Add good Italian sausage, either broken up in bulk or sliced, with the vegetables, stir to brown.

√ Canned tomatoes a bit sour? Add a tablespoon or so of sugar to the sauce.

√ Stir a tablespoon or three of cream or milk into the sauce about 5 minutes before done.

√ Substitute sage or marjoram for the oregano. Or a little dill for a sweeter taste.

√ Drain the tomatoes and use fish broth; and add cooked shrimp to final sauce.

√ Add a little good quality chili powder with the vegetables for a hint of bbq flavor.

√ Add minced pancetta or bacon with vegetables and stir.

√ Add red wine once the vegetables are soft and boil until almost dry for a softer sauce.

√ Saute minced anchovies with the garlic.

√ Mash a ripe avocado into the sauce just before serving, great over chicken.

√ Boil 2 or 3 pablano chilies with 4 or 5 tomatillos until soft, puree with 2 cups tomato sauce. Boil in a hot skillet for a Mexican sauce for enchiladas or other dishes.

√ Add fresh minced fennel with the vegetables; good on beef with lemon zest stirred in.

√ Saute mushrooms and stir into the finished sauce.

√ Stir fresh basil into the finished sauce.

√ Mince a bell pepper and add with the vegetables.

√ Cool sauce, place some in a bowl and add sour cream, lemon juice and zest to taste for a dip.

√ Turn it into bbq sauce. To two cups of tomato sauce add a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, some lemon juice, a tablespoon of mustard, two tablespoons brown sugar, some pineapple juice and Tabasco ... all ingredients +/- to taste. Cook everything together for 20 minutes.

For great spice blends:

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Plain old rice again? Fugeddaboutit. Take your basic rice recipe (starting with one cup of rice and then cooking). These are ideas for simple everyday rice - risotto and fried rice ideas will be coming later. Now, ideas for your cooked rice ...

Curry it: A quick from scratch curry is 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, pinch of cayenne, 1/8 teaspoon each ground cumin and cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon each ground cardamom, coriander and paprika. Stir spices in a small skillet with a little oil until warm, then add the mix and oil to the rice along with raisins. Shameless self promotion ... other good spices to use in rice:

√ Sprinkle in a teaspoon or more of minced fresh dill, or about one-third that amount dried.

√ Puree butternut squash with some chicken broth and stir into rice along with some gruyere.

√ Puree a packed cup of cilantro with a little broth, garlic and ginger and stir into rice.

√ Try some chopped sage, 3/4 teaspoon fresh that's been sauteed in a little butter or oil, or 1/4 teaspoon dried.

√ Substitute coconut milk for the water and add with 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander and turmeric. Stir in chopped mango.

√ Substitute pineapple juice for half the water and add some pineapple or avocado to the cooked rice.

√ Add some raisins and almonds, pine nuts or pistachio nuts.

√ Saute diced onion (which you may be doing anyway depending on how you make your everyday rice) and add a teaspoon turmeric and a teaspoon fresh ground ginger. Add rice and cook as usual.

√ Puree 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/3 cup Parmesan and stir into rice.

√ Chop up some parsley and/or chives, a tablespoon or two of each, stir in with butter.

√ Cook a little chopped spinach and add to rice with Parmesan.

√ Saute 2 teaspoons sesame seeds in a teaspoon toasted sesame oil and add to rice with some chives or scallions.

√ Stir in cook fresh corn with butter.

√ Saute a teaspoon and a half of orange zest with a little minced garlic and ginger and add to rice.

√ Lemon mint rice: Stir in a teaspoon of lemon zest and a tablespoon or so of chopped mint. Add cooked peas or chopped prosciutto if you want to.

√ Slice and stir in artichoke hearts with a little chopped tomato and dill if you'd like.

√ Toasted almonds and raisins; and cook the rice with a cinnamon stick.

√ Risi & Bisi is classic Italian. Cook peas and add to cooked rice. Also toss in cooked prosciutto or ham if you'd like. Top with a little Parmesan.

√ Red or other sweet peppers with fresh basil brighted the plate. Or roasted peppers, jarred or homemade, chopped.

√ Make it hot and spicy: a teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne and a little minced onion. Add some canned, chopped, drained tomatoes if you wanna. Add some jalapeno too if you'd like.

√ Slice some green onions and diced bell pepper in butter or oil, toss with rice. Chop some pimientos too if you'd like more color.

I'll be talking about risottos soon. For great spice blends:

Waffles From Scratch in 3 Minutes? Huh?

I like pancakes and waffles from scratch -- how to do it? Pre-mix your dry ingredients and store in a big jar. Then when you want "from scratch" pancakes just mix the appropriate amounts of milk, egg and melted butter with the dry ingredients. Three minutes, tops.

Waffles lend themselves to lots of changes.

√ Substitute buttermilk for some of the water or milk (even in a prepackaged mix) with a little baking soda.

√ Peel and very thinly slice some apples and add to batter. Or caramelize them in some butter and serve on top, or cool and add to batter.

Berries are always good. Don't defrost frozen ones before adding them or they get too runny.
√ Substitute yogurt or sour cream for about half the liquid.

√ Chopped peaches. Add to batter. Yum.

√ Cooked, crumbled bacon added to batter.

√ Minced pineapple, add to batter -- good with the bacon.

Banana and nutmeg. Slice banana thin and add to batter (might need a little more liquid in this waffle). Add the nutmeg with dry ingredients.

√ Ground ginger to the dry ingredients. Or a pinch of allspice, or cardamom.

For great spice blends: