Monday, November 30, 2009

Marinara Sauce - aka 'Sunday Gravy'

3 28oz cans of peeled Roma tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes are the best)
1/2 small onion - chopped fine
3 cloves garlic - minced
3 Tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
1/4 cup of a hearty red wine
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper - to taste
2 Tablespoon dried basil (or Oregano, but not both)


This is the only hard part of this recipe - in order to avoid the bitterness of the tomato seeds, use a food mill to separate them from the pulp. Alternatively, you can fillet each tomato (if you have the patience) removing as many seeds as possible, then dice the fillets.

In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute gently for 2 minutes until somewhat translucent. Then add the minced garlic and saute for another minute or two. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the red wine and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until the liquid is reduced and the alcohol is evaporated. The onions, garlic and simmering wine make an unbelievable aroma in your kitchen!

Now it's time to add the tomatoes. At first you'll need medium heat to get the sauce going. Stir frequently to keep the sauce temperature even. As the sauce begins to bubble, reduce the heat. Keep stirring and reducing the heat in order to maintain a gently simmer.

Here's where many recipes go astray. Italians do not typically cook their sauce for a long time. Twenty to forty minutes is usually enough. This leaves the sauce with a light flavor and a bright texture.

To serve in the traditional style, spoon a small amount onto your pasta and stir it in. Your guests may want to spoon more onto their plates, but traditionally, the pasta is the highlight of the course and Italians do not drown their pasta in sauce.

While there is no salt in this recipe - it tends to add some bitterness - you may add a little bit halfway through the simmer if you like. If you have been diligent about removing the seeds, you will not need to add any sugar or other ingredients to 'correct' the taste.

Here's an interesting story about "Growing up Italian" in the United States in the '50s.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

World's Best Bruschetta

(also known as the world's most complicated bruschetta)

2 french baguettes

For the Mixture:
3 cloves garlic -minced
7 medium roma tomatoes - chopped fine
4 green onions - diced, including some of the green stems
12 oz. jar of roasted sweet pepper - drained
2 Tablespoons capers - rinsed and drained
15 asparagus spears - tender tips only - sliced diagonally very thin and blanched
1 Tablespoon oregano flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons EV Olive Oil

For the Topping:
Pesto spread - e.g. Classico Basil Pesto
Crumbled Gorgonzola or Bleu Cheese
Balsamic Vinegar - 1/4 cup reduced by 50% over low heat

Slice the baguettes diagonally in 1/2 inch slices and lightly toast the baguettes on a grill or under the broiler until golden.
In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the Mixture, but drain any excess juice from the tomato or peppers before adding the olive oil.  This will help the flavors blend. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
To assemble the bruschetta, lightly spread a little pesto mix on each piece of toasted bread.  Spoon a generous mound of the Mixture, topped with a few crumbles of the cheese.  Drizzle a little (about a half teaspoonfull) of balsamic over everything and serve.
It's best to assemble the bruschetta just before serving so the toasts don't get soggy. 

By the way, the proper pronunciation is with a hard "k" rather than a soft "ch," as in "bruce kett ah"   This is, of course, a vegetarian recipe.  If you leave off the cheese & pesto, it is vegan as well.