Basic Tomato Pasta Sauce

When I first started to make tomato sauce, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know that additional vegetables were added to add complexity of flavor. I didn’t know how to season it properly and I certainly had no idea how long to let it simmer. Last summer, I started hanging out with my friend’s brother upon her suggestion. David was always boasting about his Italian heritage and we decided to have Monday night dinners. He taught me about tomato sauces and freshly baked bread and I taught him about pasta doughs and opened his eyes to the ease and deliciousness of rolling it yourself. It was truly a wonderful friendship that really challenged me to expand my baking & cooking repertoire.

This is not his recipe, but one I’ve developed over the years of trial and error. Though, I will say he provided a vital step in the process of developing it.  I like it because it uses a lot of veggies and only as much salt as you want, making it healthy and versatile. If you want more veggies (or texture) in your sauce, you can always saute eggplant, peppers, or mushrooms in a separate pan and add them in or just wilt some spinach in it as it keeps warm over med. low heat.
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Basic Tomato Sauce
yields approx 4 cups

needs:

drizzle of olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped (optional)
2- 14 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. parsely
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (optional)
small dash of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
6-8 basil leaves
1/2 lemon, juiced (approx.1 T.)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, start with a drizzle of olive oil and the onion and garlic. Saute until slightly browned and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the carrot, celery and zucchini. Continue to cook until soft and slightly browned.

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Add the tomatoes & their juice, making sure to crus the tomatoes a little with your hands. Add the spices and heat until simmering. Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes. This allows the sauce to thicken and the seasonings to marinate.

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Remove the bay leaf and transfer the sauce to a blender. Add the basil leaves and blend on high speed for 2 minutes.

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Transfer back to the pan, stirring in the lemon juice. Either keep warm over low-medium low heat until ready to use or allow your sauce to cool in a glass container for another day!

Quinoa Almond ‘Cereal’

When I traveled to Denver, Colorado at the beginning of the summer, my friend Danielle prepared me this wonderful breakfast. It’s a breakfast that is light and delicious but filling and hearty for the start of a long day. I was surprised when I went to Denver how different the food culture was in comparison to Columbus. Many of the restaurants toted gluten-free and vegetarian options that are not-as-common in the Midwest.

Quinoa was a menu item that kept reappearing in my adventures in Denver in hearty dishes, pilaf-style sides, and as a substitute for toast. Obviously this is a versatile grain that seems to be a popular new trend. Yesterday, my friend in Vancouver said she made a quinoa salad with green & red peppers, cucumber, red & green onion, red cabbage, apples, cherries, cheese, & balsamic vinegar. I find that recipe to be a little overwhelming, but she was glowing with joy when she reported all her ingredients.

Anyways, this breakfast will make you feel like Jonathon Borofsky’s The Dancers under the beautiful blue of Denver’s summer sky (even in the winter time).

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Quinoa Almond Cereal

1/4 c. prepared quinoa
1/2 c. vanilla almond milk
2 dashes cinnamon
1/4 c. toasted raw almonds

To begin, prepare quinoa according to instructions printed on packaging. I made the recommended 1/2 c. dry quinoa to 1 cup of water so I could save time during my busier mornings this week.ImageWhile the quinoa is boiling & steaming, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grab a handful of almonds and place on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven for 6-8 minutes or until slightly browned & fragrant.

ImageWhen the quinoa is prepared, add two dashes of cinnamon and an optional drizzle of honey.

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Finally, pour a 1/2 c. of vanilla almond milk over the top & sprinkle on your toasted almonds! Yum! Enjoy your gluten-free alternative to traditional grain cereal!

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Spicy Potato Samosas

When I was in Greenwich last summer, there was a little open air market tucked into the courtyard of a normal city block. The booths rotated on a schedule. Sometimes there were  booths of handmade jewelry, stringy scarves, or spell-a-word photography. Other times there were tables filled with old knickknacks or puzzles no doubt missing pieces. Always, there were vendors selling a variety of foods from churos and arancini to cupcakes and lo mein. To me, the true gem amongst that marketplace was a small indian booth that sold samosas 2 for a quid or 5 for 2£. They were served in little brown waxy pastry bags, the kind where you can almost watch the hot oil slowly seep through the fibers, leaving dark brown stains.

Thus, my love affair with this little snack began. I went nearly everyday the market was open to buy my beautiful golden triangles.  This is the best replica I have created thus far:

Samosa Dough (as stolen from Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries)

2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. sea salt or coarse kosher
8 T. butter (one stick), chilled & cut into thin slices
about 1/2 c. cold water

Place your dry ingredients in a bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until flour appears crumbly. Slowly add water and continue working into a dough. Once a ball begins to form, remove from bowl & knead for 1-2 minutes. Roll into a log and cut into 12 sections. Flatten to make small circular patties. Cover tightly and place in the fridge until ready to roll out & fill. Now! On to the most delicious part of our potatoy treat!

Spicy Samosa Mixture:

2 med. potatoes, pealed and chopped into large cubes
2 med. carrots, pealed and chopped into little disks
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 small green chile (we used a serrano), minced (keep the seeds for extra spice!)
1 clove of garlic (or two if they are little)
1 T. butter, or olive oil to make vegan 🙂
1 t. ginger paste
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. spicy curry powder
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
3/4 t. salt
2 dashes cinnamon
1-2 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. green peas, frozen are fine

Remove your peas from the freezer to allow them to thaw. Begin boiling your potatoes and carrots until tender. While boiling, use a saute pan to melt the butter with the onion, chile, garlic, and the seasoning. Lightly saute until the onions soften.

Strain the potatoes and carrots. Place them in a large bowl (preferably metal, the color in the spices can stain some plasticware) and add the prepared onion and spices. Pour in the lemon juice and begin mashing. Once mashed, add the peas. (it’s best to wait until the end to add these so they don’t get mashed too!)

Alright, so by now you realize this is kind of a tedious process. In order to make a loving samosa, it is best to embark upon the mission with happy thoughts and positive energy.

Keeping the dough covered, grab a piece of the dough and roll it into a ball in your hands (about 1 -1.5 in). You won’t need any additional flour for this process, the oil keeps the dough moist enough without sticking. With a rolling pin, roll the ball into a thin 6 inch circle. Cut the circle in half, so you have two semicircles. With a little water on your fingertip, wet the edges of the dough. Form the semicircle into a cone by pressing together the straight edge, overlapping the edges slightly. Hold the cone in your hand and spoon in two little scoops of potato mixture.


Fold one side in and use the rest of the dough to overlap the folded edge, sealing the samosa  (like an envelope). A little more water helps the dough bind. Place on a jelly roll pan while you roll out out the rest.

So there are a few ways you can cook your samosas. You can bake them. You can deep fry them. Or you can fry them in the oven. I am a big fan of crisp, crunchy textures. So frying is generally my first instinct. Though, I decided to settle on the bake/fry method in the oven instead.

Preheat the oven to 400. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the jelly roll pan where the samosas are patiently resting. Place them in the oven for ten minutes. Remove from the oven and flip over. Bake for another ten minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plates and allow them to cool. Its tempting to bite into them. I promise you will burn the hell out of your mouth. No one wants that.

Serve with tamarind sauce, spicy salsa, or this really yummy vinegar sauce from the Moosewood Cookbook

1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 T. b. sugar
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until boiling and let simmer for 7-10 minutes, letting some of the water reduce. Serve warm!