Fantastically Fresh Tomato Sauce

DSC03130This is truly the best tomato sauce I have ever tasted. The recipe comes from our Roman airbnb house guest, Cinzia. She made it simply with fresh tomatoes, sliced onion, olive oil and a few basil leaves. I added a bit of garlic, bay leaf and fresh oregano. We used Phat Beet’s farmer’s market tomatoes along with some dry farmed tomatoes from Monterey Market here in Berkeley. But it would be good even with grocery store tomatoes.

Makes 2 cups sauce:

8 ripe medium tomatoes

1 Tb olive oil

1/3 medium onion, sliced. We used a purple onion.

½ tsp kosher salt to taste

3 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

5 leaves of fresh oregano

10 small leaves basil (or 4 large leaves, cut up)

???????????????????????????????Fill a medium pot half-way with water and bring to a boil. Wash the tomatoes and de-stem them using a paring knife, then plop them into the boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes, and then drain in a colander to cool a few minutes.

???????????????????????????????While cooking the tomatoes, slice the onion.

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While tomatoes are cooling, pour oil into the same pot, heat a minute, and then add sliced onion and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until onion softens. Mince the garlic and stir in.

DSC03134Put tomatoes in a food processor with a steel blade, and pulse until the tomatoes become liquefied.

DSC03139Stir tomatoes into onions. Let sauce cook for a few minutes, and then add bay leaf and fresh basil and oregano. If you are using large basil leaves, tear them up first. Cover pot and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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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!

Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

¡Frijoles! Mexican Pinto Beans

These beans are a favorite of my friends and family. This recipe evolved from my mother-in-law’s frijoles al charro. She made hers with bacon to flavor the beans. I usually omit the bacon, but it’s good either way. The chipotle and smoked paprika give it a nice smokiness. You can either use powdered chipotle or a whole one. Discard the seeds and ribs, unless you want super spicy beans.

There are many opinions  in this family about cooking beans. My husband is  insistent about not soaking the beans first, as he swears that takes away the flavor. I boil the beans with all the flavorings on the theory that they will soak up the flavors. My mother-in-law says the garlic will help eliminate the gas from the beans. She told me never to put salt in until the end because it will toughen the beans. And I add cocoa powder to bring out the flavor of the chilies, just as the ancient Aztecs did.

epazoteI recently started to add epazote leaves, which are popular in southern Mexican cooking. My mother in-law, who came from northern Mexico, didn’t use them. They have a sharp smell, akin to turpentine, but they adds wonderful flavor to the beans.

Ingredients

9 cups of water

1 chopped onion

4 minced garlic cloves

1/2 – 1 tsp. chipotle powder (to taste) or 1 dried chipotle pepper

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)

1 tsp. cumin powder (comino)

1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 diced Roma (plum) tomato

1 diced bell pepper (green or red) or 1 cup frozen diced bell peppers

1 bunch of chopped epazote leaves, stems discarded

3 cups dry pinto beans

2-3 tsp. salt to taste

Wash beans thoroughly, checking that there are no stones.

Heat water to boil in large pot.

Add  chopped onion, garlic and seasonings.

When water is boiling again, add beans and boil for a minute or two.

beans with epazote stirred in

Pour into a crock pot. Cook on low until very tender, usually 5 hours. You can make it in the evening and let it cook overnight or make it in the morning and it will be ready for dinner. Add 2-3 tsp salt to taste when cooked. Serve with fresh cilantro, either queso cotija, queso fresco, cheddar or jack cheese, and chopped onion if desired.  Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Excellent for making tostadas. Simply mash well-cooked beans with the pot liquor, no frying necessary.

Vegetarian/ Vegan tacos: Fill a warmed tortilla with beans, fresh tomato, avocado and cilantro. Top with salsa and a shake of sea salt.

Store beans in small containers in the freezer. Sure beats opening a can!

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.