This month I was assigned to Fried Ice and Donut Holes, a blog that I discovered last month when I was first invited to join the Secret Recipe Club. Secretly I was hoping it was a blog I’d be assigned in the near future. Why? Well, first off, the fabulous author of Fried Ice and Donut Holes is Melissa as well. So instantly I knew I’d like her. With all Melissa’s I find good food and creativity always follow and this was no exception. So many great recipes to choose from! Right away, I zeroed in on her Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, a dish that I’ve struggled with a lot in the past. At this point I’ve probably made at least half a dozen variations from super easy to super challenging, from stove top to crockpot, but nothing has tasted just right. My husband had been ignoring my craving for Indian take out for the last few weeks, so I figured if I made it, he would be forced to enjoy.
I know, I’ve been MIA for a bit. I’ve been up to my elbows in tomatoes, literally. September is looking like a pretty hectic month and I needed to make sure I got my tomato canning in. With the next three weekends booked, last Saturday seemed like my only option so I headed down to the Fort Greene Greenmarket and my favorite farm, Wilklow Orchards, to pick up 50 pounds. Where they sat, all weekend while we visited family in Jersey. Part of me hoped we’d return to find them magically transformed into chopped and sauced tomatoes, but alas, these weren’t the self canning variety. Instead, I’ve spent the past three nights canning. Coming home around 5pm, and peeling, cutting and canning until near midnight each evening.
It’s the peeling that really gets me, a step required for chopped or whole tomatoes. For marinara sauce, you can leave them unpeeled and push everything through a food mill before cooking it down to a thicker sauce. Though if you’ve ever messed around with a food mill in tomatoes, it’s not the easiest or cleanest job. I feel like I loose half my tomatoes with the skin and end up with a fraction of the yield promised. BUT this year I discovered the secret to easy sauce, higher yield and less skin problems.
I don’t generally eat at Italian restaurants. It’s not that I don’t like Italian food–it’s one of my favorites actually–but I find most Italian restaurants to be disappointing. Hardly any place makes their own pasta. The best pasta I know of is from Petit Oven, a tiny French restaurant with a Polish chef. If I wanted undercooked (or overcooked) boxed pasta, I could do it myself, thank you very much. However, on the rare occasions that I find myself at an Italian restaurant, I opt for either spaghetti carbonara or pasta with vodka sauce. Carbonara I’ve made plenty, but vodka sauce always seemed to exotic and difficult. It only recently occurred to me the vodka sauce is literally vodka, cream and tomato sauce. Who knew?
I love, love LOVE pasta. If I’m really lazy, I eat it “plain” with some olive oil, garlic, salt and maybe some Parmesan cheese. But otherwise I’m a sauce kind of gal. Pesto works great or gravy. But I don’t like plain old tomato sauce. It has to have something to jazz it up a bit. And jazzed up sauce takes time, so like most things I cook in bulk. Gravy is super easy to freeze and defrost, so generally around this time of year, before it gets too cold, I make a few giant pots of Bolognese. This year I made a veggie version, but my real go to is a nice meaty sauce. If I can get it, I add ground pork and veal, but otherwise plain old ground beef works just fine.
Sorry, it took me a while to get this one up. Our Greenmarkets are still abundant with the last tomatoes of the season. As a bonus, they’re pretty cheap. Sure, some aren’t the prettiest, maybe a little bruised, but still tasty and perfect for sauce. Earlier this summer I put up chopped tomatoes. I probably should have just stuck with those. A few weekends ago I bought another two half bushel baskets of tomatoes from the Fort Greene Greenmarket with intentions of making sauce. I was excited because the sauce involved no peeling, rather I would cook the tomatoes down, then push them through my food mill to remove the skin. You could seed them as well in the beginning, but I have nothing against seeds. So what I thought might be less work turned out to be a lot messier and took a long time.