Spent today cooking, cooking, cooking. There must be something I’m trying to get out of my system. Either that, or the huge loads of vegetables we typically collect in the summer are making me feel guilty. Don’t waste that! It’s fresh. It was plucked out of the ground just this morning. You’ve got a freezer, right? Get those pots out, girl.
I took care of two items cluttering my fridge and counters this afternoon. Our neighbors/condo co-owners belong to an organic farm share and kindly shared a huge bag of fresh beets. They’re not fond of beets, but they thrill me to my Polish core. Beet soup. Beet salads. Grated beets. You name it, I love it. I whipped up a humongous batch of Rydzynski family beet soup, straight out of my grandmother’s kitchen and passed on to me via my dad. Every family probably has a grandmother like this: about 4 feet tall, hair in a bun, black orthopedic shoes and a pot of something on the stove (or in the oven) morning, noon and night. When we were kids we were ritually led to her ancient kitchen, seated onto uncomfortable kitchen chairs and given a plate of something home made to eat. Woe to the kid who didn’t finish it. Hey – people starved to death in the old country. They sure as hell weren’t going to do that here.
I’ll eventually share the recipe. In its current shape it’s a bit hard to decode and I want to play around with the proportions, particularly those of sugar to vinegar. Sweet-sour soups are an Eastern European thing, and they’re really good.
I also made my second batch of tomato sauce, this time from Marcella Hazan‘s The Classic Italian Cookbook (a real classic. Get it!). She has three fresh-tomato sauces that are absolutely out of this world. They are simply called Tomato Sauce I, Tomato Sauce II and Tomato Sauce III. They vary in the amount of time the tomatoes are cooked. Tomato Sauce I, which I made this afternoon, is the longest-cooking recipe. It’s a simple procedure involving plum tomatoes, olive oil, salt and smidgens of onion, carrot, celery and sugar. I use this sauce to accompany gnocci if I’m having it plain. It also pairs extraordinarily well with chicken. Give it a try yourself and see what you think:
Tomato Sauce I
2 pounds, fresh, ripe plum tomatoes (remove seeds and skin beforehand if you don’t have a food mill)
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 – 2 tsp salt, to taste (I use 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp granulated sugar
Wash tomatoes in cold water. Core and slice in half, lengthwise. Simmer in a covered saucepan for 10 minutes. Remove cover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours more.
Puree the tomatoes through a food mill (if you have one), to remove the seeds and skin. Meanwhile, wash out the pot you were using and add the olive oil. Add the onion and saute until just translucent, not brown. Add carrot and celery and saute for just another minute.
Add the pureed tomato, the salt and the sugar. Cook at a gentle simmer, uncovered or partially covered, for another 20 minutes. Stir from time to time to prevent sticking.
If you try any of the sauces I’ve mentioned, please do let me know. I’d be curious to know what you think of them.