Monday, January 18, 2010

Back to Basics and Canstruction

There are a few things I simply refuse to buy because they are so much better and cheaper made myself in almost no time.  I don't buy any sort of pre-peeled or pre-minced garlic.  Not only does this exposure to air and jarring process make the garlic not taste as good, but then I would miss out on the garlic smell on my hands which I admittedly LOVE, even after the meal is finished.  It lingers like such a sweet memory.
I will not buy salad dressing.  You would be amazed at the amazing flavors you can concoct in just minutes with the most basic and cheap ingredients.  (My favorite of late is a curry mustard vinaigrette, but I digress...)
I will not buy pasta sauce.  Let me expound on this a bit, if I may.

I never ever ever (except for by accident on very rare occasions!) let myself run out of fresh onions, fresh garlic, and canned tomatoes of some sort.  With these three staples, you will never be sauceless.  How long does it take to make, you ask?  Barely a flash.  Here's how:

In a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat, pour in enough olive oil to just coat the bottom.  (I usually use about 2 teaspoons).  Finely mince or crush several cloves of garlic, depending on how strong you like your garlic flavor.  I LOVE GARLIC, so I usually use 3 large or 4 medium cloves and I like to mince them very finely since the smaller the mince, the stronger the flavor.  (More surface area if you're a geek like me that likes to know why).  Try not to let the garlic brown too much, as this will make it bitter.  The trick is to constantly stir it around.  Add in crushed red pepper flakes to taste almost immediately.  You're ready to pour in a large can (15oz) of tomatoes as soon as you smell the heat from the red pepper.  If you are doing this, you'll definitely know what I mean.  It tingles.  Once you've dumped them in, turn your sauce down to medium-low heat and give it a good stir.  If you used whole canned tomatoes, now is the time to smash them.  If you used crushed, diced, or pureed, you can just walk away. 

Let the sauce come up to a simmer and add in any herbs you wish.  Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, savory, a bay leaf, etc.  I like to use Italian seasoning, one bay leaf, and a little extra basil. I usually use tomatoes with salt already added, so I don't add any additional salt.  You're sauce is ready when you're happy with the seasoning.  Use it as a pizza sauce or a pasta sauce.  Dilute it with chicken stock for a great minestrone soup base.  Try it, and let me know if I've converted you into an ex-commercial-pasta-sauce-consumer.

In other news:
Here I am in the news:
The News and Observer, that is.  Every year our office (Duda/Paine Architects), competes in Canstruction, a themed contest benefitting the Food Bank of North Carolina.  This year's theme was super heroes.  Naturally, we chose to construct an eight foot Super Smurf (complete with cape) from 6,500 cans of Kroger Chunk Light Tuna.  Suffice it to say, we rocked it. 

Check us out killing it time lapse camera-style on YouTube:
Duda/Paine Smurf Squad Extreme

Thanks for checking it out!

-The Redhead in the Kitchen


Anonymous said...

I feel it is my duty to pass on this info from an article I just read
entitled "7 foods experts won't eat."

1. Canned Tomatoes

The expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.

14 worst health mistakes even smart women make.

At first there was denial, anger, deal making, depression, then finally at last acceptance.

Melody Ann said...

Good to know. Especially good to know it's not hard to find a safer alternative with Trader Joe's pretty close by. Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

So happy to hear red sauce can be easy! I've made my own now and then, but I always made a big production out of it and ended up with a vat leftover that I needed to freeze. I'll be trying your trick soon. Maybe with TJ's tomatoes.

And I love the smurf! Way to go!

BTW, what kind of garlic press do you like? Do you peel the cloves first? I've been buying bulk pre-peeled garlic, pureeing them in the Cuisinart and freezing it in ice cube trays. I use a ton of garlic, but I don't have much patience for the pressing....


Melody Ann said...

Hey Nana! Thanks so much!
I used to go all out with my sauce too until I realized that this is easy to make a small quick batch I can use right away. I have a large metal garlic press I got from the kitchen store in University Mall (Love that store!). I used to use it for everything ,since I usually double the amount of garlic in any recipe! Truth is, I was reading this book by Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential, and he railed against the use of a garlic press saying that it detracted from flavor and texture. Now I just use it for garlic going under a chicken skin or into a slow cooking soup. I do peel them first by giving them a good smash. I would definitely use your cube method for soups and stuff, though. What a great idea.