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Mama Deb
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Tomato sauce (because I'm bored)

I'm currently rereading Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte, in which she uses her food columns for the New York Times Magazine to record her courtship and marriage to a man who (quelle horreur) ordered a latte after their first dinner together. Still not sure why that's bad.

Anyway, she devotes two of the chapters/columns to the theme of "Repertoire" - having a collection of recipes/dishes that we have made over and over again, perfecting them and relying upon them when we need to make dinner every night, or cook in unfamiliar locations. She didn't have one because, as a food writer/restaurant critic/whatever, she felt compelled to constantly innovate, constantly make new dishes, not to repeat old ones. And now she felt the need.

And she's right. Because with a few basic recipes/dishes, and the confidence knowing them thoroughly brings, someone who needs to cook or likes to cook will have life that much easier.



Tomato sauce. I use it for spaghetti and lasagna and chili. It helps me use up leftovers and makes a great leftover itself. It's even the basis for soups and casseroles. I could use a good pareve jarred sauce - there are a lot out there. I just like making my own.

1 spanish onion (or white onion, or two yellow onions), chopped.
1 red pepper (or green pepper or yellow pepper or no pepper), chopped.
Olive oil
One 12 oz can tomato paste
Bay leaves

Heat a heavy saute pan or wok or sauce pan, cover the bottom with olive oil, and toss in the vegetables. Reduce the heat. Cook until onions are translucent. Add the tomato paste and an equal amount of water, plus the bay leaves. Simmer until the sauce is liquid.

I never make just this, but I could. And then freeze it or, if I were a canner, can it. And then I'd doctor it up.

What I do do, though, is brown and drain ground beef, and add chopped garlic and sliced mushrooms to the vegetables, and then a shot of wine or balsamic vinegar at the end, plus a lot of dried oregano and other Italian herbs (or Italian herb mix.) And maybe hot pepper, and certainly black pepper.

Or I skip the ground beef, toss in a handful of spinach and layer it with noodles, mozzarella and ricotta cheese,and it's lasagna.

Or maybe I'll add leftover shredded chicken or turkey. And then I'll take the leftover sauced pasta and mix it with beaten eggs and bake it as a fritatta.

Or I'll skip the Italian seasonings, and spice it up with chili powder and hot peppers and add beans for completely inauthentic chili. I might even skip the meat and make it vegetarian so I can serve it with cheese and sour cream. Or poach chicken breasts in the plain sauce.

Last night, I skipped the peppers in the basic recipe, added Israeli curry powder and skinless bone-in chicken thighs and frozen peas, and served it over rice.

It's one of the most basic parts of my repertoire.

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Your journal always makes me so hungry!

:) thank you.

I think.

You are so right that every cook should have a few basics in their library of recipes they cook perfectly.

Hey, your tomato sauce is pretty much like mine. I add fresh crushed garlic and finely diced carrots to cut the acidity. That way you don't need to add sugar. :)

Huh. I've been known to add acidity to my sauces. Do we use different tomatoes?

Italians often put a wee bit of sugar in sauce to cut the acidity of tomatoes. I don't care for sugar in savory, so I dice up a carrot very fine and add that to my onions, garlic, and green pepper. Gives it just the right balance.

Meant to add--you get the same balance if you're adding basalmic vinegar or wine. Both reduce down to sugar.

Ah. Now, that makes sense. I use the wine/vinegar as, sort of, a salt substitute, too, since I often don't cook with salt.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

I deliberately left out the spices for the basic sauce, since they can vary. Normally, though, I use either freshly ground pepper or jarred coarsely ground pepper. (This is something I discovered a while ago - coarsely ground pepper makes an adequate substitute for freshly ground on days when grinding is forbidden,such as the Sabbath. The grains are big enough that you essentially crack them with your teeth and you get a burst of fresh flavor.)

I've had good luck with a pepper grinder from Trader Joe's that comes with a lid: I grind before Shabbat, leaving the pepper in the little compartment, and use what I want on Shabbat. Keeping it with limited air seems to keep it fresh.