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Archive for the tag “sauce”

Tomato Sauce

Fresh, homemade tomato sauce.

Fresh, homemade tomato sauce.

Today I want to share with you how I make fresh tomato sauce. It’s incredibly simple and only takes three ingredients (plus some water). I got about 12 ounces from just 5 roma tomatoes, so it’s also pretty economical. It isn’t easy to find high quality tomato sauce everywhere, but you can almost always find fresh tomatoes.  There are only a few steps, but it does take a bit of time, mostly for simmering.

Ingredients for approximately 12 ounces

5 roma tomatoes

4 cups boiling water

4 cups ice water

1 – 2 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste

It is possible to use other types of tomatoes. For example, if you have a blender, you can use cherry tomatoes and skip the boiling and skinning steps. Or you can use some other medium-sized tomato as long as it has a high flesh to seed ratio.

The first step is to get the skin off your tomatoes. To do this, cut an X on the bottom of each tomato. The cut doesn’t have to be very deep or long. Just slice gently through the skin. Have your boiling water and ice water prepared and set right next to each other. You might be able to use your rice cooker to boil the water, but I find a pan on the stove is much better.

Boiling and ice waters.

Boiling and ice waters.

Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and watch carefully. The skin will start to peel away from the flesh. As soon as it peels back or the X you cut splits, take the tomato out of the boiling water and place it in the ice water.

Tomato with split skin cooling.

Tomato with split skin cooling.

After the tomato cools, the skin will slip right off. The tomatoes should only take a couple of minutes at most in the boiling water. Sometimes, they will peel at the stem end, even if you cut the X at the bottom.

Once all of the tomatoes have cooled and you have slipped the skins off, the messy part begins. Take the tomatoes over to the sink and squeeze out the seeds. Even if you will save the seeds to add to a dish or use in making stock, it’s best to do this down in the sink because the seeds sometimes squirt out of the sides. Don’t worry if you can’t get all of the seeds. The most important thing is to remove as much of the liquid and as many of the seeds as possible.

After you’ve finished that bit, put the olive oil and tomatoes in a pot over low heat. You don’t want them to do more than simmer. Have a potato masher on hand so that you can occasionally smash the tomatoes as the heat. It will take at least half an hour for the tomatoes to really break down. The longer you cook, the smoother the tomatoes will become. *If the tomatoes you used have a woody or fibrous center, remove that at the same time you remove the seeds because it won’t break down as it cooks.

Nearly finished tomato sauce.

Nearly finished tomato sauce.

It’s really up to you when the sauce is done based on the texture you want. I like a smooth thick sauce with lots of fresh tomato flavor. Just add salt to taste and pour into a storage container. I’ve saved it in the fridge for up to a week.

For those who are using cherry tomatoes and a blender, skip the boiling, cooling, peeling and seeding steps. Throw about 1 pint of whole tomatoes into the pot with olive oil and cook them down gently. They will burst open as they cook and begin to fall apart. At that point, put them in a blender and pulse until you get the consistency you like. The add salt and store just like the other recipe.

If you want to add more flavor to your sauce you try adding garlic or herbs like basil, oregano, tarragon or rosemary to the tomatoes while they are simmering. It takes a little more time and effort than I’d like, but fresh tomato sauce is definitely worth the effort.

Pesto

Spinach pesto.

Spinach pesto.

Pesto is a delicious and versatile sauce that you’ve probably never considered making without a blender or food processor. But why not? The Italians managed to make it by hand since at least the 1800’s. As long as you have a sharp knife and 15 minutes, you can make it too. And, since you’re making your own, you can change up the recipe to suit your tastes. More garlic, less oil, walnuts instead of pine nuts? Sure. Once you know the basic recipe, it’s easy to mix and match flavors. In fact, I made this pesto with spinach and pecans.

Ingredients for traditional pesto (not shown)

1 bunch basil leaves

1 – 2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup parmesan

1/4 cup pine nuts

olive oil

Ingredients for spinach pesto (pictured)

1 bunch spinach leaves

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup parmesan

1/4 pecans

olive oil

Start by separating your spinach (or basil if you’re making traditional pesto) minus the stems into 2 or 3 small bunches. Get out your cutting board and sharpest knife. If you don’t have a very sharp knife, go get one before you try this recipe. Otherwise you’ll end up with bruised, smashed leaves and your pesto will not be delicious. Put one of your bunches of spinach on the cutting board and chop the leaves as finely as you can. As you’re cutting, keep changing the direction of the blade. Try scooping all the leaves into a pile and then chopping some more.

Finely chopped spinach.

Finely chopped spinach.

When your spinach looks like this you can add the next bunch. Now, chop some more. Yes, in theory, you could chop all the spinach at one time instead of doing it in three batches. Unchopped leaves take up more space and you are more likely to make a mess. It’s also a lot easier to miss bits if you have it all in one big mass. As you’ve probably guessed, after you have the second bunch as fine as the first, you’ll add the third.

Once it’s all well chopped, which will probably take you about 10 minutes, toss in the nuts, garlic and cheese. You can make this part a bit easier by pre-crushing the nuts in a small, sealable bag and smashing the garlic with the side of your knife first. Now, get back to chopping. You want to chop until everything has almost transformed into a paste. You should be able to form it into a ball that just holds together.

Almost finished pesto.

Almost finished pesto.

Finally, add the olive oil. No amount is specified in the directions because that will depend on how you will use it. You can add a very small amount and use the pesto to coat fish before baking it. You can add just enough to make a paste and use it for pizza or beef wellington. You can add enough to make it a thin sauce and use it on pasta. No matter how much oil you add, try to use real olive oil. No other oil I’ve found gives quite the right taste or texture.

Pesto pizza.

Pesto pizza.

Beef Wellington.

Beef Wellington.

 

Caramel Sauce

Finished caramel sauce.

Finished caramel sauce.

One of the easiest sauces to make in a small kitchen with few ingredients, is caramel sauce. It sounds intimidating and, yes, it can be pretty easy to mess up. As long as you watch the sugar carefully, you should have no problem whipping up a batch to pour on cakes, ice cream, fruit, etc.

This sauce will have to be prepared on your cook top, so pull out a fairly deep pot and a wooden spoon. Those are absolutely required utensils for caramel sauce. When it gets to boiling, the sugar will froth up quite high and reach up to a couple of hundred degrees fahrenheit, so you don’t want plastic melting into your sauce or metal spoons transferring that heat to your fingers.

Ingredients for about 1 1/2 cups of sauce

1 cup sugar

1/4 water

1/2 cup heavy cream (or coconut cream)

Salt to taste (optional)

This makes a creamy caramel sauce, but you can leave out the cream and still have a delicious sauce. If you want to make it creamy and can’t find heavy cream, you can substitute in coconut cream. You’ll have to put a container of coconut milk upside down in your refrigerator overnight. The cream and water will separate and the cream will solidify slightly. When you take the milk out the next day, carefully turn the milk over so that the cream and water don’t remix, and pour the water into another container to use later. Chilled coconut cream is much thicker than heavy cream, but your sauce will turn out the same.

Pour the sugar and water into your pan and put over medium heat. At this point you can very gently stir a couple of times to help the sugar dissolve. As soon as you can see that all of the sugar has dissolved, put the spoon down and back up. Seriously, don’t touch anything! Just watch. If you try to stir now, crystals will form.

Dissolved sugar.

Dissolved sugar.

Your sugar will start to boil and you might be tempted to turn down the heat or stir. Don’t! As long as you are using a pot with high sides (your sugar should only cover the bottom of the pot, not fill it), you don’t have to worry about it boiling over. It might start to look a little scary, but just keep watching.

Boiling sugar.

Boiling sugar.

When you sugar turns a golden brown, remove the pot from the heat immediately. You should not be able to smell burnt sugar.

Golden brown sugar mixture.

Golden brown sugar mixture.

If you want a creamy caramel sauce, now is the time to add the cream. Be very careful when you add the cream. The sugar will froth up again and might splatter you with tiny bits of sugary napalm if you are standing right over the pot.

Adding cream to sauce.

Adding cream to sauce.

The sauce will also thicken up a bit so get your spoon and stir it gently. You can also add salt to taste at this point if you want a salted caramel sauce. Table salt will dissolve and just give the whole sauce a slightly salty flavor. If you want pockets of flavor, try using sea salt or kosher salt. And that’s how easy it is to make caramel. Try it with banana cake and candied orange peels.

Banana cake with candied orange peel and caramel sauce.

Banana cake with candied orange peel and caramel sauce.

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