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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Homemade Tomato Sauce

I have never much liked canned tomato sauce. It's aggressive - overly tart and one-dimensionally tomato. Homemade tomato sauce is a totally different flavor. It captures the sweet freshness of ripe tomatoes without being too sweet (like many a jarred spaghetti sauce). It is fresh tomato transformed into something that you can stow in your freezer. When you pull it out to use in the dead of winter, you will think of beautiful summer tomatoes.

I have made a number of fresh tomato sauce recipes from Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian cooking. Nowadays, there are other Italian queens but Hazan is still tops in my book. At the release of her The Classic Italian Cook Book, it was said that she did for Italian food what Julia Child had done for French food. In 2010, it's hard to read it and think of it as revolutionary, but in the 1970's, when originally released, Italian food in the US did not include pesto, polenta, arugula or broccoli rabe. Not unless you happened to be part of an Italian-American family and lived in a major city like NY or Boston.

This recipe, which I made recently when Roma tomatoes were cheap and field ripened, is great for freezing. I used it in a baked penne dish and it was so much better than anything that came out of a jar or a can.

Fresh Tomato Sauce adapted from Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cook Book
(makes 6 servings, about 3 cups)
This recipe can be doubled or tripled and the sauce freezes very well.

2 pounds fresh ripe Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion, about 1/2 a medium onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot, about 1/2 a medium carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery, about 2 stalks
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

1. Cook tomatoes in a covered 2 quart saucepan at a steady simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Uncover and reduce heat to hold a gentle simmer. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
3. Run the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds.
4. Rinse and dry the saucepan. Add the olive oil and lightly saute the onions over medium heat. The onions should be translucent but not browned.
5. Add the carrot and celery and saute for another minute.
6. Add the pureed tomatoes, salt and sugar. Cook at a gentle simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
7. Sauce can be used for pasta immediately, or frozen in 1 or 2 cup containers for a touch of summer in the middle of winter.

Note: If you don't have a food mill, you can skin and seed the tomatoes before cooking. You'll lose some of the flavor but it will still be far superior to canned sauce.

Link to PDF of Fresh Tomato Sauce

Friday, October 22, 2010

A couple of new things at World on a Platter

You may have noticed the Foodie Blog Roll on the right hand side of my blog. There are tons of food blogs listed here. Maybe you'll find some new interesting food blogs using it. For me, it increases traffic on my blog and so far it's given me the opportunity to meet some other fun food bloggers out there. Us foodies are one big hungry community and we love to chat and share. It's kind of cool!

The other thing you will notice are links to pages on on some of my blog posts. Foodista is a nifty food wiki. If you look at my recent blog post on cucumbers, there is a link to the Foodista page on cucumbers. It contains a lot of useful information about cucumbers, like growing, storage, and seasonality. I think these links will help my readers learn more about ingredients, techniques and tools I mention in my posts. I think it's a pretty spiffy site.

Thanks again to all my loyal readers and keep on cooking!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why do we love cooking?

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how to get young adults excited about cooking. Statistics show that Americans spend little time cooking. How little? In the 90's, on average, we spent 15 minutes a day cooking. Not per meal, per day. This is incredibly sad for those of us who love to cook and appreciate that cooking for yourself is key to both your spirit and your health.

As part of my continuing research on this subject, we are going to have a little bit of class participation. I hope you are willing to indulge me with this parlor game. Most of you reading this like to cook. Why? What happened in your life to turn you on to cooking?

To start things off, I'll give my story. My mom didn't trust or like processed foods. And she definitely had a knack for cooking (which she presumably got from her mom, also an excellent cook). Growing up, my mom cooked almost everything from scratch. She also believed that her kids should know how to cook. We joined 4H and learned basic cooking skills. We helped at home. In high school, my mom started catering out of the house and we all pitched in. Oddly enough, I was the pickiest eater in the house and often refused to eat the food my mom cooked. But, I liked cooking it even if I wouldn't eat it. How crazy is that? In college, my eating patterns broadened quite a bit. Certainly not because the food was so good there! I finally came to appreciate how fantastic the food cooked by my mom really was. After that, I was totally hooked on cooking and eating great food. It's only become a bigger and bigger force in my life.

What's your story? I can't wait to learn something new about my friends and get more further insight into why we love to cook.