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no need for jarred sauce

By on Mar 6, 2011 in cooking, dinner, experimenting | 0 comments

Deep within the tomato lies a secret. A hidden lushness that can only be coaxed forth with alcohol. Row upon row of bright jars gleam in supermarket aisles, tempting you in with their ease, but they know nothing of this tempting secret. They insinuate a comforting notion in your head… just a box of dried pasta, a quick jar, you have dinner. But what sort of dinner? A generic, run of the mill spaghetti, the kind likely appreciated by the picky palate of a toddler, but you are a grown adult. You need to be challenged by the more simple bold flavors of a sauce tailored entirely unto you. Walk by those jars, leave them to sing their siren song to the next harried person meandering up the aisle. But do pick up a box of pasta. Spicy italian sausage and thinly wedged sweet onion sizzle and pop in the bottom of a large pot, whispering to one another, sharing flavor and colors. Mounds of freshly sliced white mushrooms pile on top, entering into this heady and sharp union. A dash of salt, a twist of pepper, the occasional stir as the mushrooms slowly release their earthy liquids, which in turn add their voice to the growing murmurs in the pot. A can of tomatoes whirls in the food processor, becoming an instant sauce. A few cloves of garlic are minced and thrown into the pot, immediately releasing a salty floral bouquet. The tomatoes are poured in, the murmur growing louder. A mellow dash of honey to quell the acidity of the canned tomatoes adds a subtle undercurrent. A dash or two of dried basil and oregano, added while wistfully looking at the dead dried plants frozen in the box on your March windowsill. All seems to be flowing along nicely, but the tomatoes seem rather timid. Nothing smooths the waters of conversation like a little booze. Out of the depths of the freezer emerges a bottle of vodka. Two shots of the velvety clear liquid are measured out and poured in. A few quick stirs, the tongue darts out for a taste, the harsh overtone of vodka still rides on the top. A few more stirs, a few more minutes, and all transforms. The vodka has slid into the conversation, its dissonance fading, instead bringing forth a beautiful harmony. Who Needs Jarred Sauce, and Bring Me the Vodka! Spaghetti The Sauce 1 lb. Spicy Italian Sausage (this is to taste, I love the hot italian sausage from Whole Foods, but put in what you like. If you are veggie, just leave it out, but heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in its place) 1 large sweet onion, cut into thin wedges 1 lb. white mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced 2 Tbsp. tomato paste 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with no salt added (or simply a can of tomato sauce, but take care that it only contains tomatoes, nothing else) 2 generous Tbsp. honey 1 Tbsp. dried basil 1 Tbsp. dried oregano 2 shots vodka salt and pepper to taste The Pasta 1 – 1 lb. box dried spaghetti (I prefer Barilla, use what you like) extra virgin olive oil In a large stockpot (I use a 3 qt. enameled cast iron,) begin to cook the sausage. Break it up as much as you can. After five minutes (the sausage will NOT be fully cooked at this stage,) add in the onion. Stir into the mix, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is fully cooked and the onions have completely softened and started to change color. Add in the mushrooms. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have started to release their liquid and shrink. When they have shrunk a bit, taste them to see if they are fully cooked through. You may prefer them a little more or less cooked, I like them right after they have released all their liquid and get all shiny. Add in the tomato paste, stir to combine. Add in the minced garlic, and cook just until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. If you have purchased diced tomatoes, run them through a blender or a food processor to make them into a sauce. Pour the tomatoes into the pot. Add in the honey, basil, and oregano, and stir to combine. Finally, add in the two shots of vodka. Bring the whole deal to a simmer, then cover and keep simmering over low heat for half an hour. While the sauce is simmering, cook your pasta in a great quantity of salted boiling water until the pasta has reached al dente. Add a couple of splashes of the pasta cooking water to your sauce, and let it simmer uncovered on the stovetop while you contend with the pasta. Drain the pasta, then toss in the pot with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Taste your sauce, adjust with salt and pepper to taste. Dish out a portion of the pasta into a warm and waiting bowl, and top with a couple of scoops of the sauce. Grate some fresh parmesan over the top, add a few fresh grinds of pepper, then sit back and meditate on the glory of the alcohol-aided...

won ton soup… in a manner of speaking

By on Oct 6, 2010 in cooking, fail... or not, love | 0 comments

A sane person would buy won ton wrappers rather than make and roll out yard upon yard of smooth supple dough, letting the cool dough glide along the floured counters as it becomes ever thinner. I am not a sane person. A won ton soup fail can elicit other delectable results. The smooth and supple dough stuck together in the damp kitchen, so the dough got pulled apart like some sort of savory taffy into ribbons and dumplings. The filling of fresh ground pork, steamed spinach, ginger, soy sauce, and peanut oil was cooked on its own, broth added, the random bits of dough flung in along with bright scallions, and at long last, a single egg beaten then swirled in, creating a final tangle of egg and noodle to rival any Pollock...

roasted chicken

By on Oct 6, 2010 in cooking, dinner, love | 0 comments

The beautiful new birthday present pot required a perfect succulent roast. Massaged in butter and salt, stuffed with lemon, garlic and rosemary, then anointed with a dry white wine, the chicken nestled deep in the enameled cast iron alongside a carrot and onion, slowly roasting in a low heat, basted with more butter and wine, seeming to swell with each swipe of the basting brush. Soon, the smells wafting through the door were too much. The neighbors appeared outside the screen door, forks in hand, a hopeful hungry look in their eye. “We have green beans,” they say. The remaining wine and chicken drippings simmer away, slowly reducing in volume. I turn off the heat, languorously whisking in a couple of tablespoons of butter to create a final basting sauce for the chicken. “Sure, come on in, I have wine.” Three people sit down. Cats hungrily swirl, sensing the meat, napkins are produced, joyful expletives are declared, and fingers are slicked as one serving turned into two, then three, manners quickly sliding away while cast in the spell of the succulent chicken. The chicken was thanked for her glorious work, her picked over carcass stowed away in the freezer for a future...

layered spinach crepes

By on Oct 6, 2010 in cooking, dinner, love | 0 comments

Emerald green spinach crepes with mellow creamy riccotta spiked with hits of asiago and fresh basil layered into a succulent striped cake, topped with mushrooms lovingly sauteed in white...

corn and chanterelle chowder

By on Oct 5, 2010 in cooking | 0 comments

Sweet sweet corn and chanterelle mushrooms… a big ol’ splurge, but they seemed to demand attention… Fresh corn and chanterelle mushroom chowder, slowly coaxed into existence over a hot stove in an un-air-conditioned apartment, causing the kitchen to heat up to a hundred. Butter was melting in a skillet before the stove had even been turned on. The cook had no choice… she was under the control of the giddy orange...

summer vegetable stew

By on Oct 5, 2010 in cooking | 0 comments

Fresh summer vegetables stewed with fresh thyme and sage until they cried salty tears. Then they got freshly made pesto added, so they shut up and enjoyed the ride. The innocent tomato, freshly plucked from the back deck, did not see its inevitable stew-y end...