Never Ending Spaghetti Sauce

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The best use for garden tomatoes is the never ending spaghetti sauce. Saute an onion in a little bit of olive oil. When it gets soft add a couple cloves of garlic and saute for thirty seconds. Then add roughly chopped tomatoes to taste and some bay leaves. At this time of year I cook all of the tomatoes that I picked. Simmer for a long time to intensify the flavor. When you have the tomato flavor where you want it you can add some freshly cut basil, a pinch of red pepper flakes, freshly ground pepper, and salt to taste.

At this time of the year I cook up new batches every week and add the leftover sauce to the new batch. My plan is to freeze a portion if I get too much sauce.

Enjoy!

Vegetarian Lasagna And An Old Recipe Book

Vegetarian LasagnaOne of my favorite summer time recipes is the lasagna recipe from The Vegetarian Epicure: 262 Recipes. I started making this dish in the 1980s and it is such a good leftover dish. Like most lasagnas this is a Saturday dish especially if you make the marinara sauce from scratch with recently picked tomatoes. The dish is pretty simple with most of the culinary emphasis placed on the spinach-ricotta mixture. That mixture consists of 1 onion sauteed lightly in a tablespoon of olive oil with a little garlic thrown in at the end. In a big bowel you combined this mixture with 3 beaten eggs, 2 pounds of Ricotta cheese, and a quarter of a pound your favorite hard Italian cheese, and a 1 1/2 pounds of chopped spinach. My cheese of choice was Parmigiano Reggiano and fortunately my local Meijer was trying to get rid of some old spinach so I picked my way though two 10 ounce packages for the 1 and 1/2 pounds. The final trick was to cook the lasgana noodles al dente. The noodles need to be firm enough that you can pick them up with tongs. I lathered the noodles lightly with butter to keep them from sticking while I put the dish together. There is no reason to overcook the pasta when it is going in the oven for another hour. With all of the ingredients ready I preheated the oven to 350°, put the baking dish on a baking pan, and started layering in a 9 x 13 baking dish. First came the noodles, then the ricotta mixture, 1/2 pound of shredded mozzarella, and finally the marinara sauce.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place the dish on a baking pan. In my old age I decided that messy dishes like lasagna require a baking pan to keep the oven clean. For old farts like me it is a good way to prevent marital strife. Place the dish in the oven for 40 minutes before removing the foil. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 10, 15, or 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes to set.  Drink a glass of wine, grab a piece of hot, garlic toast, or make a very green, crisp salad. Lasagna can be messy if you try to cut it too early. Serve and enjoy!

Cooking Pork Chops With The Anova Sous-Vide Cooker

IMG_20150217_192242Yesterday I had a hankering for pork chops so I was curious whether my sous-vide cooker could make me a better week night pork chop than the traditional method. I like my pork chops thick, juicy, and flavorful. For thick pork chops and tenderloins the thickness of the meat butts up against my self-imposed time limit of one and a half hours of cooking. If I cook pork with too much heat, the meat dries out. If I cook pork with too little heat, I have under-cooked pork. Since pork tenderloins were on sale for $1.99/lb. yesterday, I gave the sous-vide pork chop recipe from ChefSteps a shot at fixing my problems. Here is my version of his recipe.

  1. While I pre-heated the sous-vide water on the stove, I sliced several one inch pork chops, tossed a little pork chop seasoning on it for good measure, and briefly seared both sides in a pan over high heat.
  2. Then I put the chops in a Ziploc-style bag, put the bag in the water, and turned on the sous-vide cooker. I cooked the meats at 144° for 45 minutes. Since the water was pre-heated it only took a few minutes for it to get to the right temperature.
  3. Ten minutes before the meat is done I chopped some shallots and sautéed them in the pan over medium heat.
  4. When the timer went off for the meat I took the pork chops out of the bag and briefly seared them in the pan with the shallots.
  5. When the searing was done I moved the finished pork chops to the serving plate and added a little of a vegetable broth to the pan to make a little sauce to drizzle over the pork chops.
  6. Serve immediately!

The pork chops came out perfect and I like the simple shallot sauce. The outside of the pork chops had all of the flavor. The inside was cooked but still juicy. All of this was done in 45 minutes on a week night. Life is good!

Cooking T-Bones With The Anova Sous-Vide Cooker

IMG_20141115_155829My Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker arrived last week. I had already decided that I wanted to cook a steak in it as my first test so I was pretty lucky that I found T-Bone steaks on sale at Jungle Jim’s. The first problem I ran into was figuring why it was beeping at me and would not start circulating water. Then I noticed that there was a minimum water level etched on the base. With a little bit more water the I was able to set the temperature and water started circulating. When the temperature got up to 131°, I put the steaks in. A hour and a half later, I took it out of the water bath and prepped it with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. I let it sit while I finished preparing the side dishes. I seared the steaks on a pre-heated the cast iron skillet. Everything worked like a charm. The steaks had a nice sear and the inside of the steak was medium rare pink. The wife was impressed.

Tomato Pie

Tomato PieThis is one of my favorite end of the growing season dishes when you still have an abundance of ripe tomatoes. This is the Simply Recipes version of the Tomato Pie. With fresh chopped tomatoes and basil from the garden this is the perfect end of the season dish. The tomatoes are topped with sautéed onions which is topped with a mixture of shredded cheese, mayonnaise, and a dash of hot sauce. Bake this dish for thirty minutes and you have wonderfully flavorful dish. There were no leftovers!

Tomato Pie

I made this tomato pie yesterday using this recipe from Simply Recipes. This is the time of the year we get creative with tomatoes and this meal was simply delicious!? I blanched some ripened tomatoes from the garden and removed the seeds and skin. Removing the seeds and liquid is the key lesson I learned from the first time I made this dish. Otherwise the dish gets too sloppy. While I was baking the pie crust I coarsely chopped the tomatoes and tossed them with some fresh cut basil leaves and some chopped red onion. If it looks like a very appealing tomato salad you are half way home. Next I added a splash of mayonnaise to two cups of shredded cheese in a mixing bowel and then mixed it with a little bit of Tabasco and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. By now the pie crust is ready and you can assemble the pie. After thirty minutes of baking you should have something like this picture.

Takeout-style Kung Pao

I saw this recipe on SeriousEats and thought it would be a good match for us. I had all of the ingredients in the kitchen except for the Chinese wine and peanuts so I used sherry and cashews instead. The meal has some nice bursts of flavor in it. It is a good leftover meal, too. Here is the recipe list if you are too lazy to go over to Serious Eats.

Ingredients

  • For the Chicken:
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch chunks (see note above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine (see note above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  •  
  • For the Stir-Fry:
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil, divided
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 scallion, white and light green parts only, finely minced
  • 8 small dried red Chinese or Arbol chilies (see note above)

Takeout-style kung pao chicken

The New Anova Precision Cooker Promises to Be the Best, Most Cost-Effective Sous-Vide Solution on the Market

20140506-anova-2.0-release-testing-13aThe folks over at Serious Eats announced a new Anova sous-vide solution yesterday. I always wanted to have one so here was my chance to get one at good price. The funding is via a Kickstarter project and there are still some slots available to back this project for $145 and more.

Brothy, Garlicky Beans ala Food52

BrothyGarlickyBeansThis recipe for Brothy, Garlicky Beans comes courtesy of Food52. One of our favorite week day meals is roasting a whole chicken over a bed of vegetables. Typically we have the legs, thighs, and back left over from the meal so we freeze the leftovers. Last Saturday I combined the chicken with vegetable scraps I collected during the week and simmered these ingredients for about six hours. I tasted it during the day and I may have added a few fresh vegetables to balance the flavor. Voilà , I have four cups of excellent chicken stock looking for an idea. Thursday is our soup/light meal day. Before I went to work I put 1 pound of white beans into a pot and covered it with an inch of water. When I got home I drained the beans and started the soup recipe. Since I had some very fine Andouille sausage in the refrigerator I sliced up two links and added it in the last ten minutes to add a little pizazz. I combined the soup with a few slices of toasted French bread and we had excellent comfort food for a rainy day!

Brothy, Garlicky Beans

Serves 6

1 pound white beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken stock (homemade or low sodium)
2 medium shallots, halved and peeled
4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 stalk of celery, preferably with its leaves, cut into 3-inch lengths
1 large carrot, peeled and halved
2 scallions or spring onions
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
Sea salt
Parmesan rind (optional but recommended)
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
Grated Parmesan for serving

  1. Put the beans in a large heavy pot and cover them by about an inch with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Let the beans boil for one minute, then remove them from the heat and cover the pot. Set aside for one hour.
  2. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add the chicken stock, and if the beans aren’t quite covered in liquid, add a little bit of water. Add the shallots, garlic, celery, carrot, scallions, thyme, rosemary, Parmesan rind, olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat until the beans are just simmering. Cook uncovered for about 40 minutes, until the beans are almost tender. Add the tomatoes and cook gently for another 10 to 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the aromatics and extra vegetables if you like (or save them for yourself like I do), taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve drizzled with a little olive oil and a shower of Parmesan.