San Marzano Marinara Sauce

can of San Marzano

An article from the New York Times convinced me to try San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes to make Marinara sauce. These tomatoes from Italy’s Sarnese Nocerino Area, close to the famous Mount Vesuvius volcano, are sweeter and more flavorful than American ones. I tried their recipe, but couldn’t resist tweaking it to make it my own improved version. I found the ingredients at Trader Joe’s.

garlicIngredients:

  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 8 crimini mushrooms, quartered and sliced
  • A few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • A few grinds black pepper
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced.

Pour the can of tomatoes into a blender and blend a few seconds.

fried garlic mushroomsHeat the oil in a skillet until it shimmers. Add garlic, onion, seasonings and mushrooms. Fry until onions are soft and garlic is yellow. Stir in the artichoke hearts.

Stir in the pureed tomatoes. Swish the can with 1/4 cup water and swish in the blender, then stir into the tomato sauce.

sauceCover skillet and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix it with pasta or make it a day ahead for the next day’s pasta.

For red linguine with prawns, I grilled the prawns, then mixed with sauce and pasta and grated a bit of Parmesan on top. You could also fry the prawns with the garlic and onion, then remove them while cooking the rest of the sauce, and add them in later.

linguini with prawns

 

Eggplant Crockpot Pasta Sauce

served with Parmesan and basil

ingeredients

The last 10 minutes of San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers Market are filled with vendors shouting “$1 a bag!” which is how I ended up lugging home 2 bags of eggplant and a huge bag of tomatoes home on the Bart train!

We’re in the middle of one of those rare but scorching Bay Area heat spells, so I decided to use my Crockpot to cook the eggplant and veggies instead of roasting them in the oven. Although not as toothsome as roasting, they came out tasty and ready to mix with penne or rigatoni pasta.

chopped vegetables

Ingredients:
A very large bag of tomatoes. It’s fine if they’re a little soft, and that’s what you’re going to get with bargain bag tomatoes anyway.
5 long Italian eggplants and 4 small globe eggplants
1 ½ small onions, (or one large onion)
2 bell peppers (or a bag of frozen sliced bell peppers).
5 large mushrooms
6 spicy chicken Italian sausages (you can use sweet if that’s too spicy for you)
8 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
Parmesan rind
4 bay leaves,
Sprig of rosemary
1 Tb oregano
1 ½ tsp salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 Tb of olive oil
1 Tb red wine
1 Tb of sugar

Add after cooking sauce:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 fresh bunch of basil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 pound of penne or rigatoni pasta

Chop the vegetables and sausage and add the other ingredients in the first list to the Crockpot. I went to the trouble of dipping the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling them, but it’s not really necessary to do that.

in the crock pot

Cooked sauce in the Crockpot

I started the sauce after work and let it cook all night. (You can also start yours in the morning and cook it all day.) I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough liquid to cook it properly, but in the morning I realized that the vegetables had released plenty of liquid. I removed the Parmesan rind, which had given up its flavor to the sauce.

I added a can of chopped artichoke hearts. I chopped half the bunch of fresh basil I had bought at the farmers market and stirred it in with the freshly grated Parmesan. I let it sit in the fridge until dinner time so the flavors would develop.

At dinnertime, I boiled 2/3 of a pound box rigatoni pasta  and mixed it together with the sauce. I chopped up the rest of the fresh basil and sprinkled it on top with more Parmesan. This made 9 meals. Yay for leftovers!

layered with Parmesan

layered sauce with Parmesan

Minestrone Soup

Fall in the Bay Area brings a few weeks of sunshine to ripen tomatoes, then rainy and chilly days, perfect Minestrone Soup weather. Pick those ripened tomatoes off the withering vines, combine them with broth and chopped veggies and herbs in a big pot. This is a pretty forgiving recipe, so if you want to clean out the veggie bin of your fridge, throw in what you’ve got. You could use frozen veggies  or canned tomatoes. There is a use for everything, even Parmesan cheese rinds! The rind lends a wonderful flavor to the soup. If it doesn’t break up, leave it in the pot when serving.

10 servings:
1 or more Parmesan rinds
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 bunch red Swiss chard, leaves torn off ribs and chopped fine, to make about 3 ½ cups, dice the ribs
1 large red bell pepper, diced to make 1 cup
1 large green bell pepper, diced to make 1 cup
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms
1 Tb salt (to taste)
½  tsp fresh minced rosemary
1 Tb fresh minced oregano
1 tsp dried basil
6 cloves garlic, minced
several grinds black pepper
One package (4 links) Aidells chicken sausages. either artichoke and garlic or sun-dried tomato with mozzarella cheese (optional)
1 bay leaf
several shakes red pepper flakes
10 cups (2 1/2 quarts) homemade chicken or vegetable stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or vegetable broth (you can use boxed stock, but it won’t be as good!)
1 can tomato paste
4 cups diced tomatoes (Roma is best)
OR 28 ounce can San Marzano peeled tomatoes to sub for tomatoes and tomato paste
4 dried Porcini mushrooms
1 rind Parmesan cheese
1  cup peeled and diced carrots (2 large carrots)
2 peeled and diced red potatoes
2/3 cup small pasta (I used the tiny tubes called ditalini for my last batch, but I have also used salad macaroni)
4 small zucchini, diced to make 1 ½ cups
1/2 pound green beans, chopped
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped.
1 Tb fresh minced basil (about 5 leaves)
 
Garnish:
a few pinches dried oregano to taste
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Heat stock, Parmesan rinds, tomato paste, tomatoes or canned tomatoes  in a large pot.

Grind dried Porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder or small food processor and add to the stock. Add salt to taste.

Scrub mushrooms and rinse well. Dry in paper towel. and cut off woody ends from the stems. Place mushrooms on toaster oven tray and spray with olive oil spray. Broil for 10 minutes. When they cool, cut them in quarters and add to stock.

Stir-fry onions, red bell pepper, chard ribs, garlic, celery, and herbs in  olive oil in a heavy skillet until translucent. Add to stock.

Slice sausages in quarters lengthwise and then into half-coins. Stir fry in the same skillet as the onions were in for about 4 minutes, until browned. Add to soup, then ladle some soup into the frying pan and scrape the browned bits into the soup, then pour back into the pot.

Stir in carrots, chard leaves, canned beans, and potato and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in pasta, green beans, zucchini, parsley, corn and peas. Cook 10 minutes on medium. Stir in fresh basil.

Discard bay leaf and ladle into bowl. Stir in a pinch of dried oregano, fresh basil, and a few spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy with a slice of good bread such as Acme herb slab, foccacia, olive bread, or sourdough baguette. Manga!

Eggplant Marinara


eggplants roasted with peppers

Rich with eggplant, mushrooms and tomatoes, spicy with Italian sausage,  garlic and pepper, and fragrant with Italian herbs, this marinara sauce is ideal for pasta or Lasagna. It’s got 1/2 teaspoon red pepper for a nice heat but if you are sensitive to spiciness, just put in 1/4 teaspoon. There are two ways to make this marinara: with chopped oven-roasted globe eggplant, or sliced Italian eggplant. You could even use both for an extra helping of vegetables. I roasted the mushrooms to bring out their earthy flavor.

I took a tip from The Breakaway Cook Eric Gower, and added ground dried mushrooms for umami, (Japanese for savory deliciousness), which wonderfully expands and rounds out flavors.

Along with my homegrown herbs, I add a fresh bay leaf. I pick them when I get the chance to hike in the hills around Berkeley and Palo Alto. Their aroma brings me memories of my youth hiking and biking those hills. Just be careful about leaving them in too long – the fresh ones are very strong and can overpower the sauce, making it bitter. Just leave it in about 15 minutes. You can substitute 2 dried bay leaves and leave them cooking in the sauce until ready to use.

Serves 8 (with pasta)

3 links turkey Italian sausage or vegetarian sausage. (optional)

1 Tb olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 Tb  salt (to taste)

½ tsp. red chili flakes. Less if you don’t want it spicy

5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

3 Tb minced fresh oregano OR  1 Tb dried oregano

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried tarragon

1 tsp dried basil

several grinds black pepper

2 green bell peppers and 2 red bell peppers. (can substitute 3 cups frozen or 2 cups jarred roasted red peppers)

1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste

¼ cup red wine (If you don’t have red, then substitute a dry white)

2 lbs or 14 large soft Roma tomatoes (substitute 48 oz can of crushed tomatoes (Cento brand is best) and 24 oz diced tomatoes

1 Tb sugar to taste

1 fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves

3 dried Shiitake mushrooms

1 large or 2 medium roasted globe eggplant  and/or  4 Italian eggplants, cut in rounds and quartered

1 cup quartered mushrooms: use about 12 medium crimini mushrooms or 7 criminis and 1 large Portobello mushroom, or whichever combination you dream up. If criminis are not available you can use regular white mushrooms.

1  14-oz can artichoke hearts, quartered

1 tsp fresh tarragon

I bunch (1/4 cup minced) fresh basil

Italian eggplant method: Roast or barbecue eggplant and peppers. Discarding ends, slice eggplant into rounds, then quarter the rounds.

peppers and eggplants

Globe Eggplant Method: Pierce globe eggplant with a fork, and roast in a heavy oiled baking pan in 425’ oven for 1 hour until it collapses.  Roast red and bell peppers  for the last ½ hour alongside the eggplant. Roast mushrooms for 15 -12 minutes until soft. You can roast the vegetables a day ahead of time.

You can also barbecue the eggplant peppers and mushrooms.

While eggplant is roasting and cooling, make the rest of the sauce.

Slice, quarter and brown sausages and drain the fat.

onions

Cook onion and salt in olive oil over low heat, covered for 20 minutes until it softens and is translucent.

onions and spices

Add chili flakes, garlic, dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, and black pepper. cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until herbs release their fragrance. If using frozen bell pepper, add them now. Add browned sausages.

Add tomato paste, then fill tomato paste can with water then stir in the tomato paste that has stuck to the can. If using canned tomatoes, add them and rinse out the cans with a bit of water and add it to the onions.

If using fresh Roma tomatoes, halve them and scoop out seeds and fibrous ribs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulse tomatoes in food processor until desired consistency is reached. I did mine on the chunky side. Stir into tomato paste and herb mixture. Add sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

If using chopped Italian eggplant, add it to sauce.

If using globe eggplant, scrape it out from the peel and mince it. Stir it into the sauce. Peel the bell peppers and mince them, then add to the sauce.

Quarter crimini mushrooms and chop Portobellos and mix in the sauce.

Grind the dried mushrooms until pulverized in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Stir into sauce.

Add 1/4 cup wine and sip some on the side…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If using roasted bell peppers, stir them into the sauce.

Stir well and let simmer for an hour. You can make this in a crock pot and let it simmer for several hours.

Add quartered artichoke hearts and fresh tarragon for last 10 minutes of cooking. Just before serving over pasta or making lasagna, stir in fresh basil and cook a couple of minutes.

A Tale of Two Squash: Squash soup and Squash tacos

It was the best of squash,  it was….well anyway, there once were two butternut squash that were roasted in the oven.

but after becoming caramelized and soft, they headed for two different fates: one a smooth creamy soup made with broth and sage; the other filled spicy tacos with a burst of freshness from cilantro.

Butternut Squash Soup

Heat 3 cups broth (see Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

If squash has not cooked completely in oven, put seeded and peeled cooked squash in broth. Add  a large peeled and chopped red potato, and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes.  Or I bake a Russet potato with the squash, halve it and peel it.  If both squash and potato are soft, you can skip boiling them and just plop them in the blender with the soup and sage.

squash in broth

Put it in the blender with the soup, several torn sage leaves, and a ½ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste). You can omit the potato and make this soup with Potato-Leek soup base for a creamier, savory taste. Or try part broth, part potato-leek soup.

Heat raw pepitas (green shelled Mexican pumpkin seeds) on a comal or heavy frying pan until they begin to pop.

Garnish soup with seeds and a sage leaf.

Butternut Squash Tacos

mash squash

Simpler veggie version: Seed and peel squash and mash with ¼ cup butternut squash soup. Add ½ tsp. cumin and a few shakes chili powder or chipotle powder and salt. Grate or slice 2 tsp low fat cheddar cheese for each taco and add to squash.

tortilla with squash and cheese with pepitas on comal

Heat corn tortilla on comal, spread squash-cheese mixture on top.

Add salsa to taste, then toasted pepitas (you can toast them while heating the tortilla). Finish with chopped tomato and fresh cilantro.

ground turkey squash taco

Ground turkey version: Heat 1 Tb garlic infused olive oil (or regular olive oil) and add ½ chopped onion and one pound ground turkey. Add 1 chopped red or yellow bell pepper and 3 chopped Roma tomatoes. Season with 1 tsp each cumin and chipotle or chili powder, black pepper and chili flakes, 3 Tb salsa, and salt to taste. Cook until turkey is brown, add ½ cup butternut squash, and a squeeze of lime to cut the sweetness of the squash. Heat corn tortilla and fill with mixture. Add as desired: chopped lettuce, tomato, guacamole,  shredded low-fat cheese, more salsa, and cilantro. For a vegetarian version, substitute pinto  beans for turkey.

Tomato-Basil Hamburgers with Mushrooms

Just in time for summer barbecues!  Nice topped with applewood-smoked bacon (to make up for the lean hamburger meat), avocado, lettuce and tomato.

Basil has been described as the tomato herb. I just got a new plant for my garden and took a few leaves off for this burger creation. Did you know you can take leaves off your basil plant and it will keep growing as long as you leave the bottom two leaves?

Combine in a bowl:

¼ cup diced basil

¼ cup diced onion

2 lg mushrooms, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

½ large Roma tomato, diced (¼ cup)

1/4 tsp. minced rosemary

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (several shakes)

about 3 grinds of black pepper

a few shakes of sumac

½ tsp salt

Fold 1 lb lean hamburger into all ingredients except salt. Form 4 patties. Salt top and bottom. Grill on medium-high until desired doneness. Turn often for optimum cooking.

Have leftover burgers? Put them in spaghetti sauce for a quick and easy meal. If you made the barbecued eggplant, you can add leftovers to the spaghetti sauce too. I added a little fresh basil and oregano to the jarred sauce for extra flavor.

Tortilla Soup, bién rica

This classic Mexican soup is fragrant with lime, comino and oregano, with just enough heat from chile powder. This is one of the first recipes that I posted on my blog. I’ve updated it to the way it has evolved in the last 10 years.

You could make a vegan version of this recipe by using vegetable broth.

I make my own Tortillas de maíz hechas a mano – Homemade corn tortillas from fresh masa from the local Mexican market or with dry masa. They will literally melt into the soup. When I’m not up to that I buy preservative-free tortillas made in East Oakland: (from La Finca or La Mexicana)  in Mexican markets in the East Bay,  or at La Palma in San Francisco.

You can roast the tomatoes ahead of time and make tinga de pollo or season the chicken ahead of time.

Serves 3 for dinner with a warm tortilla in the soup.

1 ½ quarts (6 cups) homemade chicken bone broth.  See   (ok, buy it boxed or canned  it you don’t have homemade.)

1 corn tortilla (homemade is best) for the soup, plus 3 tortillas to serve in the soup.

14 oz can roasted tomatoes or 5 fresh Roma tomatoes and olive oil spray

2 Tb olive oil, divided

1/2 onion plus 2 Tb onion for chicken and 2 Tb for garnish

3 cloves garlic

2 large stalks celery, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1 tsp. cumin (comino in Spanish) divided between chicken and soup

2 tsp dried oregano, divided between chicken and soup

1/2 to 1 tsp ancho chile powder (to taste) Remember a little goes a long way!

1/2 teaspoon salt to taste

½ roasted chicken breast shredded (tinga de pollo is an excellent addition and will add extra flavor)

2-3 teaspoons salsa

1 lime, juiced

Garnish with any of the above:

Several sprigs of fresh cilantro for each bowl if desired

2 – 3 tsp dried oregano

A tablespoon of minced raw onion for each bowl

1-2 Tb Monterey Jack cheese for each bowl

1 small to medium avocado sliced

If roasting your own tomatoes: Preheat oven to 300′ Halve tomatoes and place cut side up on a foil-lined pan. Spray with olive oil spray and bake for 1 hour. Remove the stems and skins from tomatoes and onion, then pulse them in a food processor. You can do this step ahead of time.

Heat 1 Tb olive oil in a large pot. add onions, celery and carrots and saute until onions soften. Add broth and bring to boil, then stir in tomatoes, cumin, chili powder and salt to taste.

Shred chicken breast. If not using tinga de pollo, prepare the chicken as follows: In a separate pan, heat 1 Tb olive oil and add onions and saute until soft. Add chicken and mix in 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon comino and 2 Tb salsa. (You can do this part ahead of time.)

Heat tortilla on a comal or heavy frying pan until soft. You can alternatively microwave it for 30 seconds.

Ladle 2 cups of broth into a blender (try not to include the vegetables). Tear up the tortilla and add it to the blender. Blend on high until tortilla has crumbled into the broth. Pour back into the soup pot and mix thoroughly.

Stir in the cooked breast. Heat soup to hot. Juice the lime into the soup.

Pour soup into bowls. Roll a freshly warmed tortilla and put it in the bowl. Add avocado slices, sprinkle dried oregano, raw chopped onions, and cilantro as desired. Crumble cheese on top. ¡Disfrùtela!

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