Fresh Tomato Sauce Using My Food Mill

Fresh Tomato Sauce Using My Food Mill

I love the taste of pasta tossed with fresh tomato sauce. It’s one of those guilty pleasures in life worth the time and effort. Even though it’s not exactly fresh tomato season, you may want to save this article for a day this summer when you are wondering what to do with that bushel of ripening tomatoes. The beauty of tomato sauce is you can use bruised and even slightly over ripened tomatoes.

If you use several varieties of tomatoes your sauce will have a richer flavor. Another way to add flavor depth is to roast some or all of your tomatoes first. I sometimes opt to roast cherry tomatoes before adding them. They take far less time to roast.

One question I get asked a lot is whether I go to the trouble of peeling all the tomatoes before I cook with them. The answer is no. That’s because I use a food mill which removes all the peelings for me!

Ingredients

10-15 pounds fresh tomatoes
fresh basil
salt
pepper
crushed red pepper (optional)
sugar (optional, helps cut the acid)

Directions

Chop tomatoes into large chunks and add to large stock pot.

fresh chopped tomatoes

Cook down on medium heat for 45-60 minutes. This time will vary depending upon how much water is in your tomatoes and how thick you like your sauce.

In batches, run cooked tomatoes through a food mill to remove all skins and seeds.

food mill tomato sauce

Add seasoning (whatever you prefer) and simmer 10-15 minutes longer.

 

fresh tomato sauce with basilCook pasta in salted water to desired doneness. I prefer some bite to my pasta.

Toss hot pasta with sauce. Taste and season as needed. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

brad nierenberg rigatoni recipe

Less is more when it comes to fresh tomato sauce. But that’s just my opinion! If you’ve never used a food mill, they work great for sauces and soups. And, if you are ambidextrous, it counts as an arm workout too!

What’s your favorite way to prepare tomato sauce?

Pork Chop Casserole – A Comfort Food Favorite

Pork Chop Casserole – A Comfort Food Favorite

I love pork chops. They are inexpensive and delicious as long as you don’t cook the dickens out of them.

We grew up eating pork chops fairly often because of the low cost. My favorite way was with stuffing and applesauce on the side. I stumbled across a recipe from one of my most tattered cookbooks the other day that put the stuffing, apples, and pork chops all together for a very easy to prepare (and tasty) casserole of sorts.

I made a few alterations of my own which I explain below. For the original Betty Crocker recipe (which is hard to improve upon) you can visit their website which is probably a bit easier than borrowing my cookbook!

img_3820

Ingredients
1 Tbs butter
3 Granny Smith apples, sliced
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
salt, pepper, garlic, sage, paprika, thyme, all spice
4-6 pork chops

Your own recipe for stuffing or use mine: 
4-6 cups cubed stale bread (I prefer sour dough)
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage with sage browned and drained
celery and onion diced and sautéed in 3-4 Tbs. butter until soft
1-3 cups chicken stock (enough to moisten)
1/4-1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten
salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, fresh parsley

Mix these ingredients together until moist (not mushy) and keep tasting for right amount of seasoning.

Directions

img_3814

Brush 1/2 teaspoon butter in bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Spread apple slices in dish. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over apples.

img_3816

Season the pork chops with whatever spices you prefer and lay on top of apples. I used a combination of salt, pepper, garlic, sage, paprika, thyme, and all spice.

img_3818

Cover pork shops with stuffing.

img_3819

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes longer until you get a nice browning on the stuffing.

See how easy that is! Enjoy!

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

I’ve shared my method for making risotto in an earlier post. I love that risotto is a blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to add. All you need is time, patience, and arborio rice!

This time I decided to pair two of my favorite flavors, squash and pancetta. Butternut, acorn, delicata, or whatever variety you prefer will work just fine in risotto. I chose butternut this time.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
Nutmeg
1 package diced pancetta
Fresh sage, chopped
Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Directions

p1080713

Peel and cube squash into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg on a baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven until golden, or to desired doneness. This takes about 20-30 minutes.

p1080723

While squash is roasting, render out the diced pancetta on the stovetop until crispy. I tossed in a small handful of fresh chopped sage too. Drain off fat and save for later.

Pour stock into pan and warm it up.

p1080715

In a separate pan sauté diced shallot or onion in some olive oil and butter. Add rice and toast slightly.

Slowly add stock one ladle at a time, stirring often and allowing each ladle to absorb before adding the next.

p1080720

After the rice starts to puff up and look creamy, taste a few kernels for doneness. It should have a slight bite in the center. If it is still too raw, keep adding stock until it reaches desired doneness. Do not overcook it, unless of course you prefer mushy risotto!

p1080726

Once the rice is done, fold in the roasted squash, pancetta, a splash of heavy cream (this is optional), and a tablespoon of butter (also optional). Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

I learned a few things about pasta when in Italy. First, the pasta is the star so don’t drown it. Second, never overcook it. Third, salt the water well. Fourth, finish it off in the pan with your toppings. Fifth, you can make a pasta dish out of just about anything. I even had penne tossed with fresh strawberries, olive oil, and parmesan cheese served to me once. For the record, it was delicious!

When faced with a crap load of fresh tomatoes, I’ve had to find multiple ways to use them up. One can only slice and eat so many tomato sandwiches! Since I love BLTs, I decided to try something similar as a pasta dish. Like I said, you can mix just about anything with pasta! Sorry there are no measurements. This is one of those thrown together deals!

Ingredients
Fresh tomatoes, sliced
Garlic cloves, sliced
Olive oil
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil, chiffonade cut
Pasta, I used cavatappi, but any shape would work. FYI: My favorite brand of pasta is DeCecco!
Bacon

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

p1080390

Layer sliced tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast to desired doneness. I roasted this batch for about an hour. The longer they roast, the sweeter they get.

p1080399

Cook bacon until crispy and drain well. Crumble.

p1080403

Prepare your pasta. Cut the fresh basil into thin slices (chiffonade).
Toss hot pasta, more olive oil, salt, pepper, roasted tomatoes, and bacon together. Serve warm with parmesan cheese. And of course, hot pasta is always delicious with warm home baked bread!

Buon appetito!

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

I happened upon this video from Epicurious last week and then gave it a try using items already in my fridge and pantry. It’s brilliant…simple, delicious, and looks like I spent hours. I’ll be trying more combinations over the coming weeks. This will be the best 2 1/2 minutes you’ve ever spent! Watch it!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs with White Beans

p1080551

Ingredients
8-12 chicken thighs
1 fresh lemon, thinly sliced
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, slivered
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
Salt, pepper
2 cans white beans or 2-3 cups dried beans you’ve soaked and cooked

p1080558

Directions
Please rack in top third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Arrange in 9×13 baking dish. Brush top of each piece with a small amount of olive oil.

Spoon beans around chicken. Space out the slivered garlic. Tuck in the lemon slices. Pour liquid so that it comes about halfway up the chicken. Leave tops exposed. Lay rosemary sprigs around dish.

Bake in top half of oven until chicken browns, about 30-45 minutes.

It was really that simple!

For a more exotic way to prepare chicken, try spicing things up with chipotle and ancho chili!

Tomato Jam Goes with EVERYTHING!

Tomato Jam Goes with EVERYTHING!

If you have homegrown (or farmer’s market) tomatoes coming out of your ears, today is your lucky day! This recipe for tomato jam is so delicious, you’ll be spreading it on everything. Heck, I help myself to a spoonful every time I pass the fridge! Scrambled eggs, hot dogs, burgers, cheese & crackers, bruschetta … use your own imagination (or Pinterest) to figure it out. But beware, tomato jam goes down easy and when eaten in large quantities, results in a slight, albeit “so worth it,” sugar headache. I speak from experience.

I modified Mark Bittman’s recipe as listed in the NYTimes just a tad. He’s a brilliant cook so I have not changed his recipe to improve upon it. To be perfectly honest, the first time I made it, I did not have enough limes, so I improvised by adding balsamic vinegar for more acid. And I like a little more spice, as you’ll see.  Finally, I more than doubled the recipe because those tomatoes cook down so much, you’ll be sorry if you start with too few tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds ripe tomatoes, any variety, or a mixture. 
  • cups sugar, or less if you don’t want it as sweet.
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoons fresh grated ginger or 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thai chili paste

Directions

p1080281

Core and chop all the tomatoes. You could even do a course chop in your food processor to save time. I used my Miracle Kitchen Plus which worked great!

p1080580

Toss the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients in a heavy pan and bring mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for several hours.

p1080607

You should be able to pull your spoon across the bottom of the pot and see the bottom. It will be thick like jam.

Cool and store in the refrigerator or freezer. I spoon it into small mason jars while it is still warm and screw the lid on tightly. As it cools, it sucks the lid in a bit for a tighter seal. This is not the same as canning (which you could totally do) so each jar lasts only a week or so in the fridge.

p1080324

It makes a great gift for friends and neighbors if you are the sharing type!

One amazing way to use tomato jam is on a grilled cheese sandwich with fresh mozzarella and a slice or two of fresh tomato. Talk about delicious!

If you have a recipe for tomato jam or a great way to use it, please share below!

 

These Cinnamon Chip Scones Will Change Your Life

These Cinnamon Chip Scones Will Change Your Life

IMO the perfect scone is tender and not sickeningly sweet. They are one of my favorite baked goods. I am slightly partial to cream scones, but also enjoy ones that use buttermilk or yogurt. They key of course is not over-stirring them once liquid is combined with the dry ingredients. Like biscuits or pie crust, the less handling, the better!

I offered to bake scones for a friend’s birthday this week and had a craving for cinnamon and maple. I combined those two flavors for what I believe is one of the best scones I’ve made yet. If you are one of those folks that believe scones should be sickeningly sweet like a giant cookie, move along. These are not your kind of scone. If these are a bit too sweet for your liking, leave off the glaze. They’ll still be delicious!

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cinnamon chips

Directions

P1080333

Mix all dry ingredients together. Use a pastry cutter to incorporate butter until mixture looks like small peas. It is fine to have a few larger pieces of butter. You can work with it as much as you want at this stage.

P1080337

Add cinnamon chips and stir in with a fork.

Measure heavy cream into liquid measuring cup. Stir egg and vanilla into the cream using a fork to incorporate the egg. Pour liquid into dry ingredients and carefully mix together until it comes together. A spatula works great.

P1080338

Turn dough onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a baking mat. Press into a 8-inch disc. Add a bit more cream to measuring cup and brush the top of the dough with a thin layer of heave cream. Lightly sprinkle the top with a pinch or two of sugar. Use a pizza cutter to cut into 8 wedges.

P1080344

Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Glaze (optional)

P1080367

In a separate bowl combine 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup. Stir until smooth. Add more syrup or sugar to alter consistency. Drizzle over scones.

Scones are always best served warm. You can keep these in an air tight container for a day or two. Just warm them for 30 seconds in the microwave or place them in a warm over for 5-10 minutes. You can also wrap them individually and freeze some for later.