Homemade Tomato Sauce

The inspiration: A need for a delicious, minimally processed tomato sauce full of good flavor.

I love making things for myself -I like the concept of being able to control what goes into what my family and I eat. Processed foods have a time and place, but with all the additives they contain, I prefer to use them as little as possible. So I am always pushing myself to make more at home, and one thing we love is tomato sauce. We have meals that feature tomato sauce at least twice a week – grilled fish and brown rice with tomato sauce mixed in, or pasta with beef or chicken and tomato sauce are two examples that come easily to mind. The point is, for something I feed my family so often, I want to make it as healthy and flavorful as I can.

The innovation: Not adding sugar to the sauce, and not peeling the tomatoes first.

When I first started researching tomato sauce recipes, I got really discouraged – the recipe always calls for sugar, and to peel the tomatoes, or blanch then peel the tomatoes. I didn’t want to do either.  I didn’t want to add sugar because I wanted to make something completely healthy and as minimally processed as possible. I didn’t want to have to spend the extra time working on the tomatoes, either. This recipe is a chunky but not especially thick – if you are looking for a tomato sauce recipe like you see in a magazine or on TV, this isn’t it. It’s chunky with real tomato and fresh vegetables and herbs, and the small amount of sweetness comes from cooking down the onions and garlic. Using the best quality tomatoes will improve the sweetness as well.

My re- interpretation: Homemade Tomato Sauce

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Recipe for Homemade Tomato Sauce

4 lg cloves garlic chopped

6 stalks celery rough chopped

1 lg Spanish onion rough chopped

6 fresh sage leaves rough minced

1 small handful fresh tarragon leaves rough minced

8 fresh basil leaves rough minced

Olive oil for sauteing

5 lb ripe Roma tomatoes (look for ones that are bright red and only the slightest bit soft or not soft at all) cut into quarters

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (look for a can that says Imported from Italy)

2 packages crimini mushrooms cut into halves

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 of 750ml bottle of dry red wine ( I prefer Burgundy)

 

1) Heat olive oil in the bottom of a 10Qt or larger stock pot. Add garlic and onion, cook on high heat til they have a golden brown color.

2) Lower heat, then add celery, fresh herbs and mushrooms with the red wine, cover with lid and leave sweat for at least 30 mins, or until vegetables look more tender.

3) Add fresh and diced tomatoes, season with salt and pepper ( use a little now, adjust later as needed) and let cook covered at a low simmer for at least 1 and a half hours. The vegetables should be tender, and there should be a significant amount of liquid in the pot.

4)At this point, take a immersion or hand blender and blend everything into the pot together very well, til mixture is chunky. Cook a bit longer, about 30-40 mins, then turn off heat and allow to cool completely before storing away. This will make a large quantity of sauce – I filled 4 2lb deli containers.

Lazy Leftovers Make Simple Suppers: Sprouted Beans and Rice

The inspiration: Leftover rice and a need for a quick, light yet filling supper.

After all the Yom Tovim ( Jewish Holidays) of Rosh Hashana and Succot. with all the cooking and planning that it entailed, I was exhausted. For a month straight, it was back to back weeks of holiday, with a  few days to shop, restock, and cook again in between. So the Sunday after Simchat Torah (the last holiday) when my family said they were hungry, I could not bring myself to make a large meal for them.  I also could not bring myself to order takeout. Each day when I had been too busy cooking/cleaning/shopping/preparing, DH and the kids had gleefully lived it up eating takeout – pizza and falafel, mostly.  Enough was enough. Time for a home cooked meal, too tired or not.

The innovation: Using frozen sprouted beans to cut down on my cooking time

I rummaged through the fridge to find something the DCs would not turn up their nose to, and thankfully there were not that many leftovers.  I found a half of a 9×13 disposable pan of leftover, plain basmati rice, and I grabbed a pack of frozen sprouted beans. They were mixture of garbanzo, kidney and navy beans. Couldn’t find stock, so water and white wine had to do for cooking with.  Too tired to mince herbs and garlic – so a bit of dried cilantro, salt and pepper came to the rescue. Not the fanciest or most thought out meal I ever planned, but it was good and filling, and at the end of the day, everyone was happy.

My interpretation: Sprouted Beans and Rice

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Recipe:

8 oz raw basmati rice, cooked to package instructions and set aside, or 3 to 4 cups cooked rice

1 12oz package frozen sprouted bean blend

2 to 3 cups water or vegetable stock, plus a bit more (keep some on reserve as you may need to add during cooking)

3 oz dry white wine

Two generous pinches of dried cilantro (substitute with parsley but use a tiny bit more pepper to compensate)

Salt and pepper to taste.

To Prepare: 

Have the rice on reserve. Take a 6 Qt pot and add the water or vegetable stock and white wine. Bring to a boil and add the beans, covering tightly with a lid and cooking on at a low boil for at least 20 minutes. Check at least once to ensure there is enough liquid. When the beans are nearly finished – about 30 to 45 mins – drain almost all the liquid. Add the rice, a bit of salt, pepper, and the cilantro at this point, mix well and cook on medium to low until beans are done and rice is hot all the way through.

 

 

 

Cookbook Review: The French Market Cookbook

Very simply, I wanted to review this book. I bought it, and the only compensation I am getting is letting all of my dear readers know about an amazing book and an even more amazing blogger. At times, that is compensation enough.

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Anyone who knows anything about me knows these two things: I don’t follow recipes, and I don’t follow trends.  I like cookbooks for inspiration – I look at them for new techniques to try, new flavor combinations to explore. The last time I bought a cookbook (until this one) was when I bought the Flavor Bible and Provence the Beautiful Cookbook. However, I’m not entirely certain they are cookbooks in the truest sense. The first is a book that primarily discusses flavor pairings and combinations, the other is a coffee-table book that talks about the geography and history of the various areas of Provence with fantastic pictures and that happens to have recipes.

If someone tells me ” Ooh, Sarah, you HAVE to get this – it’s so ( fill in the blank with whatever must have item/trend and your favorite over the top adjective here), ” I usually take a look, and promptly forget about it for a minimum of three to six months. Why? Very simply, I don’t buy into the belief that an object or a style will make my life suddenly better than it was before. Trends and styles come and go, and that’s fine with me. If I see something and still want it later, then it’s worth considering.  I think they call people like me classic minimalists. Give me one of something, of excellent quality that I can use for the next 5, 10 or even 50 years and then I am happy. I’ve found that if it’s new, if it’s hip – it’s usually not for me.

Having said that, I will be the first to admit that when I heard that Clotilde Dusoulier (http://chocolateandzucchini.com/‎) was coming out with a new cookbook, I not only bought it, I pre-ordered  it. I never, ever pre-order anything.  I am usually the one who is excited about something, thinking it to be new and wonderful only to have my friends kindly inform me that it’s old hat, been there done that.

What do I like about this book? To start, the recipes are organized by seasons, starting with spring.  Each section starts with a little bit about life in Paris and ends with a list of seasonal produce that I found to be quite extensive. The recipes are simple, titled both in English and French, and most are accompanied with a photograph. It’s a book filled with no-fuss dishes that charm with their simple elegance.  Using seasonal produce with ingredients that highlight the main ingredient of the recipe, Clotilde makes dishes that speak for themselves. There’s even a section in the back called Essentials that are basic, all-year round recipes – the foundations in a country kitchen such as vegetable stock, tart and pasta doughs, and recipes for various vinaigrettes.  This is a book that could be considered a staple to anyone’s kitchen, and that I could see getting frequent use in my own kitchen.

I found myself truly enjoying this cookbook. As a cook who focuses mainly on rustic French and Italian cuisines, I found myself humming in agreement as I studied the recipes, smiling as I recognized some of my favorites, and even intrigued by some that I had never seen before.

Recipes that I could see myself making? Poor Man’s Bouillabaisse (Spring – pg 29) Green Bean, Red Rice and Almond Salad (Summer – pg 66) Couscous with Vegetables (Autumn – pg 124) and Assorted Savory Puffs (Winter- pg 153)

 The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from my Parisian Kitchen is a cookbook that not only I am happy I purchased, it is also one I would recommend to anyone.

For more of Clotilde’s fantastic recipes, visit her blog: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/

To order her cookbooks or to find out more about her, visit her Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Clotilde-Dusoulier/e/B0034PURNI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1