Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saucy Shame

I have a confession to make.

I have never made pasta sauce from scratch. Ok, well, that's not true. But it was true until very recently. I had seen the magic performed; mostly by friend's parents. I have cooked with the essentials previously: tomatoes, basil and garlic. Just never for the sole purpose of making home-made pasta sauce. I thought it would be too hard. The thought also stirs up terrifying memories of my I-Ti (Italian American) mother opening a jar of tomato PASTE, putting it in a sauce pan, and declaring it fit to top pasta with no herbs or alteration of any kind. Perhaps when Northern Italy (mom's mom) and Southern Italy (mom's dad) meet and breed they don't quite know how to cook with each other and it results in culinary defeat? I don't know. (Yes, it was my Irish-Scottish heritaged dad whom I watched cook growing up, I suppose that is another shock.) My mom will kill me if she reads this, but it's all true! Yes, she fed us probably more frequently, but there is no question over who had more finesse in the kitchen.

Given all this history, I looked with great suspicion upon the "Simple Tomato Sauce" recipe in my cook book. Surely it wasn't so easy?

6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tbsp olive oil
28 ounces (800 g) of whole plum tomatoes
fresh chopped basil to taste

In a saucepan on low heat, cook the garlic in the oil for a couple of minutes, until golden. Stir in the juice from the can of tomatoes.

Cut the tomatoes coarsely with a knife while they're still in the can. Add them to the garlic with the basil, salt and pepper, bring to simmer, and cook on low heat for at least 5 minutes.

It's minimally harder than opening the jar on the shelf and tossing that on your pasta, but the results are tastier, chunkier, and I know just what's in it.

Sure, it's bare bones, and it didn't take hours, and there's no meat. It's a start though.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hand-made Veggie Burgers: Southwestern Black Bean

From my new cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health (More than 200 Vegetarian and Vegan dishes)

I cannot resist a good burger and fries. I've been feeling guilty about my once-a-week fast food burger habit, so this weekend I opted to go healthier and closer to home. My Moosewood book has five different burger recipes and I love black beans because they remind me of Texas, so I went with these first. This is the only recipe that wasn't vegan, I believe from the inclusion of egg as the binder. I found the black beans in the organic section, as they are a rare thing here; they should be with the regular canned beans on an American grocery store shelf.


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of ground pepper
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1 cup grated carrots
1 fresh chile, minced
or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup ground tortilla chips
(mashed until they reach the consistency of course meal)
2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Warm the oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper and cook until the onions soften, a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms, carrots, chiles, and orange juice, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.

(Onions, carrot, mushies, chiles, oj)

2. While the vegetables cook, combine the ground tortilla chips, beans and egg in a large bowl and mash well with a potato masher, or pulse in a food processor and then transfer to a bowl. When the vegetables are tender, drain (if needed) and stir into the bean mixture.

(Chips, beans and egg)

3. Form the burger mixture into six patties (a heaping 1/2 cup per burger) and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 25 minutes, until firm and lightly crusted.

Moosewood gives lots of serving options as well as recipes to accompany (Sweet Potato, Apple and Chipotle Soup).