Friday, June 18, 2010

Alice Waters's Pesto Sauce

From Jenny Also Cooks

I may have decided on Nathaniel's Special Sauce, but there is still sauce to be made!

Our garden has expanded exponentially this year, and with that comes an abundance of basil. To keep it growing healthy, it must be picked before it decides to turn to seed. One of the best uses I know for basil is pesto, and I turned to Alice Waters in The Art of Simple Food, because her recipes have never steered me wrong. It was delicious - simple and fresh - although I made it in the food processor since I didn't have a mortar and pestle.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Special Sauce in the Twitterverse

One of the people I follow in Twitter is arjunbasu because he writes 140 character stories. I adore them.

I just read the one he posted five hours ago, and I hope he doesn't mind me putting in my very own special sauce blog!

"Tomatoes littered the area. The place reeked of an imagined violence. The cops arrived. I just want to make my special sauce, Jim explained."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce

From Special Sauce

This recipe comes from Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger. I'm not sure it is that healthy, looking at the fat content, but it was delicious, and a nice change from tomato and parmesan sauces.

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion

From Special Sauce

This has been pervading the blogosphere, and I couldn't resist trying it and blogging it. I came across it at Smitten Kitchen, where you will find far better photos and the recipe itself. This is a great pantry staple - all you need is an onion, one can of Italian tomatoes, and some butter! For the simplicity of ingredients, it was delicious, although maybe not as good as "Nathaniel Sauce." Also easy to make while doing other things, so bonus. And I left it chunky since the tomatoes break down quite a bit!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Sauce

From Special Sauce

Although I didn't experiment for this special sauce challenge as much as I would have liked, there was sauce had on Nathaniel's birthday, December 24.

From Special Sauce

With a tomato sauce, it is important to make sure the tomato shines through. Like most of the sauce recipes I was coming across, I used canned whole Italian tomatoes and crushed them by hand. This time I took that literally, and spent fifteen minutes rubbing the tomatoes apart with my fingers. What I had left looked a lot like crushed tomatoes, but I have to believe that there is a reason recipes ask you to start with whole ones. Who knows what ends up in the crushed tomato cans, after all.

From Special Sauce

I have been restocking my pantry with a variety of whole Italian tomatoes, so I used two cans of them, just randomly picking one of each. I also had two leeks in the fridge and decided to add them kind of last minute. I like the flavor of leeks a lot, and felt like it couldn't hurt the sauce!

The best-tasting sauce throughout this challenge had been the basic tomato sauce by Mario Batali, but the texture was problematic. I took his basic recipe and made changes to it based on the other conclusions I have drawn throughout this experience, such as wanting more carrot, needing a touch of acidity (that's what the lemon does), and seasoning at more than one point in the cooking process. So here it is!

Nathaniel Sauce

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, 1/4-inch dice
2 leeks, thinly sliced, well rinsed, and well drained
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1 medium carrot, finely grated
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Your choice of pasta, cooked al dente (we like cavatappi best)
1/2 cup basil leaves, rolled and cut into a chiffonade
Grated Parmesan

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Season with salt for the first time (try 2 tsp here). Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Add lemon juice, and season with salt. Blend in food processor, blender, or with hand-held immersion blender, adding a little water if you desire a thinner texture (I just blended and served as is).

When ready to use, the cooked pasta should be added to a saucepan with the appropriate amount of sauce, while stirring in the basil. Garnish with cheese.

This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.I had about a cup of sauce left over after adding this to a pound of pasta, and used it for homemade pizza a few days later.

From Special Sauce

And because this entry wouldn't be complete without it, here is Nathaniel with his sauce!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Marinara Sauce II

From Special Sauce

Another week closer to Nathaniel's birthday and I have lapsed greatly in my preparation for this challenge! A few months ago I wrote down a bunch of recipes from the library, and found that pile when I cleaned off the coffee table. I got the ingredients for several sauces and decided on Marinara Sauce II from The Complete Book of Sauces. I chose it because it incorporated wine and mushrooms, both of which have been absent from the sauce experiments so far. I used a red wine that we were given as a welcome to the neighborhood gift from our neighbors and I have already forgotten what it was - it was very dry.

From Special Sauce

The sauce had to simmer quite a while, and it was definitely chunkier than I was looking for. I could have blended it before serving but was interested in following the recipe as written first. Nathaniel and I both agreed that the wine did not improve the sauce, but rather tempered the acidity of the tomatoes in a bad way. It tasted more like wine veg sauce than a nice tomato sauce. I wonder if I had added more acid (lemon, vinegar) if this problem would have been solved. I also slightly wonder if the mushrooms were partly to blame. Hard to tell, but this was the least favorite of the sauces so far.

Marinara Sauce II
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
3 lbs Italian plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until just transparent, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in all the other ingredients except the mushrooms, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer 5 minutes longer. Yield: 3 cups

So this is actually helping, by knowing what we don't like, I'm starting to narrow it down.

I don't like onions in large chunks. The flavor of the veg like carrot and mushroom is nice but the large chunks is not ideal.

The texture of the "Yellow" tomato sauce was better because it was thin and coated the pasta perfectly. I could adopt that technique to any flavor combo, I think, the adding of water and oil and emulsifying it at the end.

Wine - no. A good tomato sauce does seem to need some acidity.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Nunzio's Tomato Sauce

From Special Sauce

I was at the public library for a book repair workshop, so I sat and copied down a bunch of tomato sauce recipes. This one was picked because I didn't have to go to the store to buy anything for it! It comes from Italian Farmhouse Cookbook, written by Susan Hermann Loomis. Pretty basic, but cooking it over an hour brings a richness to the sauce.

From Special Sauce

Here it is bubbling away on the stove. You can see the oil around the bubbles on the surface of the sauce, and honestly I think I may cut back on oil by half if I make this recipe again. It tastes really good but I'm not sure the oil is adding much that half of the amount wouldn't do.

From Special Sauce

Here is the sauce after cooking for an hour and twenty minutes. Reduced completely, rich and delicious. We liked it, but for me, it wasn't unique enough to be called "special," and that is what I'm searching for.

Nunzio's Tomato Sauce

2 cans (28 oz each) whole tomatoes with juice (I used San Marzano)
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil

Place all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium so the sauce is boiling gently, uncover, and cook, stirring occasionally and crushing the tomatoes, until all the liquid is evaporated, about 1 1/4 hours. Stir more often as it thickens.