Roasted Summer Bounty Sauce

Sat, Jul 14 • 0

When the production of your garden really starts to kick in during the summer, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed with the bounty. This recipe helps, because by roasting down all of the vegetables, you intensify their flavor. And you’ll love the aroma of the roasting vegetables.

Aside from the tomatoes and the garlic, you can add or subtract any vegetable, depending on what you have too much of. Swap eggplant and/or zucchini in place of the carrots. Add some bell peppers if you have them.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine:

6 pounds tomatoes (plums are best, but some additional cherry tomatos will sweeten the sauce), cored and quartered
1½ c. coarsely chopped carrots (optional)
1½ c. coarsely chopped celery (optional)
1½ c. coarsely chopped onions
9 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
6 T. balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1½ t. each fresh thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley
1½ t. salt
1 T. freshly ground pepper

Roast all of these for 45 minutes or until everything is soft (I’ve left it going for almost 2 hours with no ill-effects). Remove the bay leaf and whatever herb stems you can find, and pulse in a food processor or blender or even a hand whizzer, but leave it slightly chunky. Freeze in 2 cup portions. Makes 2 quarts.


Chicken Cacciatore with Risotto

Sun, Oct 12 • 0

Cacciatore means “hunter’s style” in italian, and it’s typically a braising method for chicken (or rabbit) with tomatoes and other vegetables, including mushrooms, onions, and herbs.

The chicken part of this meal was the simple part to the much more complicated risotto, but even that’s not so bad. I chose whole wheat short grain rice for my risotto, which doubled the cooking time, but you can choose regular white, arborio. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but you could easily use chicken breasts, or a combination, and the chicken doesn’t have to be boneless — though I recommend the skinless, since the braising method would tend to make the skin sort of rubbery otherwise.

6 boneless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup onions, chopped
1 large can plum tomatoes, crushed, with juice

1 large leek, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 handfuls short grain rice, about ¾ cup
2 cups chicken broth, plus 3 cups water, heated to boiling
¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Heat a frying pan over medium heat, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper, and brown them off, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken, and put in the garlic and the onion, and sweat. Add the tomatoes, plus any herbs you like (basil or thyme would work well here) and bring to a rapid boil. Return the chicken and cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. and cook until the chicken is cooked through — at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock and the water to a simmer in a saucepan. In another pan (preferably, a saucier), heat 2 tablespoons of butter, and add the leek, and cook until wilted. Add the rice, and stir, allowing the rice to soak up the butter, and turn pearly. Begin adding the hot stock, about three or four ladles-full to start. You don’t need to constantly stir the rice, but you do need to keep and eye on it, and stir it occasionally, to make sure it doesn’t scorch in the pan and run out of liquid. Keep adding more liquid, a ladle at a time. I also fortified the cooking liquid for the rice with some of the excess liquid from the chicken, which added flavor as well as a rosey color to the rice. It’ll take about 20 minutes for white risotto or 45 for brown to get to the point where you can taste a grain or two, and they’re chewy, but not so much so that they stick to your teeth. At this point, you can keep cooking it to whatever consistency you prefer. I like it the consistency of wet oatmeal. Remove it from the heat, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the shredded cheese. Taste for seasoning.


Making Marinara

Thu, Aug 28 • 0

Well, I’ve spent the afternoon making marinara sauce with whats left of the huge batch of tomatoes I bought the other day. Some of the tomatoes have gotten a little tender in spots, but I’ve only had to throw away two of them because of mold, and I’ve nearly used up the last of them all. I’m not making a full blown tomato sauce with them, but just processing them so that they’ll be more versatile down the road. What I’m making could be turned into tomato sauce later on, but it can also be used for a lot of other things, too. No salt yet, either. I can add that when I’m ready to cook again with them. This is one of the more foolproof canning projects, since tomatoes are so high in acid. This recipe makes about 5 pints, or 2 quarts of marinara.

So here’s a rundown of the ingredients for each batch :

6 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, and diced
1 large sweet onion
1 small pinch red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup water
bunch fresh basil leaves
¼ cup red wine vinegar (optional)

  • Bring a big pot of water to the boil. Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato, and dunk it in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove and immediately plunge into cold water. The skins should peel right off.
  • Core and chop the tomatoes. (Optionally, you can also remove the seeds and the seed membrane before chopping them.)
  • In a heavy bottomed pot, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and add the chopped onion, and allow it to sweat, about 10 mins. Then add the pinch of red pepper flakes and garlic. Stir in the tomatoes, the water, and the vinegar. Cover, and let it come to a good boil, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the cover, stir, and lower the heat, and allow it to gently boil for 45 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • 5 or 10 minutes before it’s done, stir in the basil leaves, and some more chopped garlic, if desired.

This is a good starting point for your own homemade tomato sauce, but if you’re making multiple batches, like I am, follow the standard canning method — sterilized jars, lids, and tools. If you’ve been reading this blog all summer, I’m sure you know the drill by now. If you want to make a smoother sauce, you could run it through a food mill. In any case, fill the jars leaving a little head room. Put on the lids, then process the sealed jars in a hot water bath that covers the lids by at least 1 inch, and boil for 35 minutes for pint jars, 45 minutes for quart jars. Store in a cool, dark place, and use within a year.  Be sure and examine anything you’ve canned for any signs of deterioration, or spoilage, and discard it if you find any. More canning info can be found at CanningUSA.com.


In Season Now : Plum Tomatoes

Mon, Aug 11 • 0

Roasted Balsamic Tomato Sauce will reward you with a delicious aroma while it cooks in the oven.

Every August, I end up making a couple of batches of this sauce, when the prices for plum tomatoes hits the floor, but it works equally as well with any kind of tomato you’ve got too many of in your garden.

Preheat your oven to 425° and spread olive oil all over the bottom of a sheet pan. Wash your plum tomatoes and slice them in half. Sometimes, I’ll use my thumb and pull out the seeds and pulp. If I’ve got the time, though, I’ll lay the tomatoes out, cut side down, on the sheet pan, and roast them by themselves for 30-45 minutes, allowing all the juices to dribble out, and thicken and caramelize. Take them out of the oven, and turn the tomatoes over, skin side down. Once that’s done (or if you’re pressed for time), mix a large onion, sliced, and a couple stalks of celery, chopped, and a few whole cloves of garlic, along with any other excess summer produce you’ve got, in a bowl with some more olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and spread it around the tomatoes — add a little more balsamic for the tomatoes, too. Roast in a hot oven for 45 – 60 minutes, or until everything is collapsed and roasted.

Allow it to cool a bit, and then transfer to a blender. You’ll probably get lots of sticky carmelized goodness left on the sheet pan, so deglaze on the stove top with a little water, and add that into the blender. Blend until smooth. Add more water for a smoother consistency, or use chunky, like a relish.

Since the tomatoes are high in acid, I plan on putting aside some jars for eating later this year, but you could freeze it, too. Tips for canning tomato sauce can be found on CanningUSA.com.


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