Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tomato sauce with onion and butter

Pasta has been one of my favorite dinner staples for the last 20 years. I especially like spaghetti with tomato sauce.
I have been looking for the perfect tomato sauce ever since I started cooking my dinner, but I have never gotten it 'right'.
I have made sauce with oregano, with thyme and with basil. I have made tomato sauce with and without chili, with and without garlic, and sometimes with a lot of black pepper. But to no avail. I never got the sauce I was looking for, and I had almost given up until last month, when I read the blog of smitten kitchen.

"I could no longer resist this sauce, and frankly, I don’t know why I even tried to: food bloggers obsess over it, and they’re not a bad lot to base a recipe selection upon. Adam of Amateur Gourmet fell for it five years ago. Molly at Orangette raved about it over two years ago, with a bonus approval marking from Luisa at Wednesday Chef. Then Rachel Eats fawned over it too...", she wrote.

It sounded so simple. Almost too simple: Canned tomatoes, onion, butter and salt.
Could that be the 'secret' recipe I had been looking for? Really? Really??

Tomato sauce with butter and onion
(from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking)

Serves 4
(-makes enough sauce to lightly coat most of a pound of spaghetti).

28 ounces (800 grams) whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)
5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

* I also added a pinch of sugar to take the edge off the canned tomatoes.

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit just right in a 3-quart) over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add a pinch of sugar and salt to taste and keep the sauce warm while you prepare your pasta.

It worked. It really, really worked!
This sauce is so silky, and tastes like velvet on pasta.
How can that be, you might ask? It's the butter. It transforms the tomatoes to a sauce that reminds me of sun baked tomatoes in the summer. The onion adds sweetness and rounds off the sauce so the only thing you need to add, is salt. Make sure you taste the sauce before you add the salt, as some canned tomatoes come with salt.

Since I made this sauce for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I have made it four or five times already. I love tomato sauce, and I finally found my 'secret' recipe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More Indian food

Many people have warned me that vegetarians can have problems getting enough protein in their diet.

I have turned to legumes and eggs, milk and yogurt, which all are great sources for protein.
Every day for lunch I eat one portion of organic Müesli with skim milk. I happen to love Müesli,so it's an easy task for me. Right now I eat a blueberry vanilla Müesli which I really like, but I also like the good old Müesli with raisins (I really like dried fruits).

For dinner I eat mostly Italian food, because I love the simple but hearty Italian cooking. Bust as with everything, even Italian cooking has it's limits. It tastes better when you don't get to eat it every day.
Which is the reason I have turned to Indian cooking. I recently read that 80 percent of the Indian population are vegetarians, and they have a long tradition of cooking with vegetables.
Thankfully, I like Indian spices, even though they are hard to find in regular stores. Last week I went to an Asian market and bought a stack of Indian spices like fenugreek, black mustard seeds and ajwain seeds. They were way cheaper than store bought spices too.

I also bought Indian ghee, whic is clarified butter. Since the milk proteins are removed, ghee can cook at a higher temperature than regular butter since it doesn't burn so easily.

Indian vegetarian dishes has a lot of starch like rice and vegetables in them. But as I have noticed, a lot of them has tofu and yogurt, which are great sources of protein. This particular dish contains yogurt.

The dish itself is easy to cook up on a weeknight. It contains potatoes, aubergines, cauliflower and rice which are all ingredients that are easy to find in regular stores. It can be done in 30 minutes or less. This is also a great dish for families that are part vegetarian and part omnivore.

For the family meat eater I fried up a piece of white fish fillet in regular butter. I gave the fish fillet a round of salt and pepper before frying it. DH said it tasted great, and I couldn't agree more.

Indian vegetable biryani

For four people, you’ll need:

1 cup Basmati rice, washed and drained
Oil for frying*
1 pound mixed vegetables (potatoes, aubergine, cauliflower), cut into small pieces
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon raisins, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon finely shredded ginger
1 red chilli, minced
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
½ cup natural yogurt
Juice from 1 lemon
A handful of fresh coriander and mint, chopped

* I used Ghee – Indian clarified butter – instead of oil.

Cook the rice according to package. Set aside when done.

Heat oil or ghee in a deep pan and fry the onion until brown. Drain and reserve.

Fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes. Make sure they don’t burn. Add a little bit of water and let them cook until they are cooked through – but still has a bite.

Add the garlic and ginger to the vegetables. Then add the spices, the yogurt, half of the friend onion and salt to taste. Blend well.

In an ovenproof serving dish, put one layer of rice and then one layer of vegetable mixture on top. Sprinkle some lemon juice over the vegetable mixture and then some chopped coriander and mint.

Begin with the next layer of rice and add vegetable mixture and sprinkle with lemon juice and herbs (mint and coriander).

End with a rice layer on top. Garnish with raisins and the rest of the chopped mint and coriander and fried onion.

Serve immediately, or keep warm in an oven (gas mark 4) until you are ready to serve it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My voice is back and I have turned to Indian food

I feel better today than I have done in days!
My voice is back and my breathing is much better, though I don't plan on singing anything anytime soon (my voice sounds like I have smoked 60 cigaretts a day for 60 years).
It's finally a little warmer outside, so I took the dogs walking for an hour this afternoon. It was nice, and I think the fresh air did me good.

Back home, I decided to make Indian Pulao for dinner. This is a dish from west India, and is an easy but tasty dish of spiced rice with vegetables.
The spices used are cumin and garam masala, and you can find the vegetables in every store. It's a perfect dish for a Friday night when you want something easy and fast to put on the table.

Indian Pulao
(serves 4)

6 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp cashew nuts (I used unsalted nuts)
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
3 oz fresh or frozen sweet corn (I used canned)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp golden raisins, chopped
salt to taste
1 cup uncooked rice (I used basmati rice)

Heat oil in a heavy pan and fry the cashew nuts until golden.
Drain and reserve.

Add vegetables and the spices to the pan. Fry for a few minutes.
Add rice and 1 1/2 cup of water. Cook until rice is done and vegetables are soft but still crisp, about 10-15 minutes.

Add cashew nuts and golden raisons and serve hot.

I ate this dish as it is, but DH - the Meat Eater - had some butter fried white fish to go with it. I'm happy to report we both liked it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I have bronchitis and I can't exercise.

I hate being sick. I just hate it!
As it happens, I have gotten bronchitis and it hurts to breathe in the cold air outside.
I drink a lot of water every day, but I need solid food too. Unfortunately, nothing tastes good these days. It's like my mouth has dried up and my taste buds went numb. It's a food bloggers nightmare!

I spent today at a university and we had lunch at the univerity cafeteria. First I bought pasta with a spicy tomato sauce, but then it turned out the tomato sauce had sausages in it. I was hungry so I moved the sausages to one end of the plate and tasted the pasta with just the spicy tomato sauce on top, but the sauce was so spicy it set my mouth on fire.

So I switched to a salad with falafel. The falafel tasted great, and that was fortunate because they didn't have any vinagrettes and I can't stand the creamy stuff - so I ate my salad bare.
The salad itself tasted nothing. I guess my numb palate couldn't pick up the flavors from the shredded carrots, the corn, cherry tomatoes and cucumber, but the falafel itself rocked. I guess garlic is the cold curing spice for a reason.

I can't wait to be over the bronhitis and getting back to my normal cook-and-eat mode.

Monday, February 1, 2010

French pistou soup

When I was in southern France last fall, I heard about a vegetable soup called Pistou soup. Unfortunately, I never got to try it when I was in France, but once I got home I did a search for it.
Pistou soup is originally a summer vegetable soup, but people who know me, knows that I don't have patience to wait another six months to try a new recipe when I really, really want to try it. As in right now!

This recipe is from Taste, and I must admit it's one of the best soups I have ever tasted. Why this soup isn't as famous as Minestrone soup is beyond me.
I did one small change: I didn't have a can of mixed beans so I used butterbeans instead.
Also, make sure you use goos pesto, because it works wonders for the flavour!

Pistou soup

Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tbs olive oil
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, cut into 1cm cubes
1 large potato, peeled, cut into 1cm cubes
2 cups (500ml) good-quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 tomato, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 1cm cubes
420g can four-bean mix, drained, rinsed
50g thin French or thin green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2cm lengths
1 large zucchini, chopped
4 tbs (1/3 cup) good-quality basil pesto
Chargrilled bread or baguette, to serve

Heat oil in a large saucepan, add leek and sweat over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the carrot and potato and cook, stirring, for a further minute.

Add stock and 1 cup water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 5 minutes, then add tomato, four-bean mix, French or green beans and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook for a further 2 minutes, stir in half the pesto, then ladle into serving bowls.

Add a dollop of remaining pesto. Serve with bread.