Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quick Pasta with Marinara Sauce

I can almost promise this will be the easiest dinner to make yet still be absolutely delicious. If you do this in tomato season (July-October) even better but still good anytime.

3 pounds fresh **vine-ripened** tomatoes (or 1 28 oz can Muir Glen whole plum tomatoes)
(don't use gas-ripened tomatoes from a Safeway or any tomato out of season!)
3 cloves garlic crushed in a mortar or with a knife
a few leaves of fresh basil
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

If using fresh tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare a bowl with ice water. Blanche a few tomatoes at a time in the boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove and put into the bowl with ice water. Remove the tomatoes from the ice water and peel by hand. (if you can't peel them yet, put them in the boiling water a bit longer)
If using canned tomatoes, just open the can. :-) Not quite as tasty but still good.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot add the crushed garlic. Once the garlic starts to color, add the peeled or uncanned tomatoes and the pinch of salt. Cook at a lively simmer for about 30 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When the sauce is 5 minutes from being done, add the basil leaves. Cook another 5 minutes then use to dress the drained pasta.

I have to believe that most people just don't realize that just using fresh tomatoes cooked for a little time with a bit of the right seasoning is going to kick the ass of any jarred prepared tomato sauce they can buy in Trader Joe's or Safeway.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Roasted Bronzino

Cooked a delicious meal of roasted fish, bulgar and chickpea salad with baked artichokes and fingerling potatoes. Most of this also comprised a class I gave recently, in all a nice Mediterranean repast. 

Soaked some bulgar for a while then drained it.

I soaked dried chickpeas over night then cooked them for about 30 minutes to soften.

Roasted a couple of red bell peppers over an open stove flame to get the skin good and black.

I left the peppers to steam in a paper bag, then removed them, peeled them and sliced into strips.

The dressing was simple emulsification of lemon juice, salt and olive oil that I mixed by shaking it in a closed jar.

Added a seasoning mix of scallions, fresh mint from the garden, and a dash of cinnamon.

Added the dressing to stir just before serving.

 We got a farmed bronzino from Tokyo fish, seasoned the inside with salt and pepper, added some thyme twigs from the garden along with thinly sliced lemon and drizzled over with olive oil.

On a baking pan, I cooked for about 15 minutes at 450 until the interior was no longer pink and the flesh was starting to flake.

My wife used her expertise to fillet.

Final dish with the side of baked artichokes and potatoes. YUM!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stir-fried Asparagus with Garlic

We had leftover tzeen meen (Hong Kong-style chow mein with a touch of deep frying) from our favorite Chinese restaurant, Daimo in the Pacific East Mall in Richmond. We stir-fried it to heat it up but were lacking a green vegetable, which is always a critical course in Chinese home meals. So we went with some asparagus that my wife had picked up at the El Cerrito Farmer's Market.
We came up with this recipe.

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 pound asparagus
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon hot bean sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Prepare the asparagus by removing the hard ends and slicing the remainder into 2 inch lengths.
Heat a seasoned iron wok on high heat to smoking. Add the oil to heat then the minced garlic. Stir fry the garlic for about 15 seconds then add a pinch of salt and the asparagus. Stir fry the asparagus for about a minute or two until the heat has had an effect on it. Add the beef broth and continue on high heat for another 5 minutes or so. You're looking to eventually reduce the broth to a thick sauce. With about 30 seconds to go, stir in the bean sauce and the soy sauce into the reduced broth. Just at the end add the sesame oil and give a quick stir then remove from heat and serve at once.