I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd spend some time exploring food and wine with you. Because I've been making so much Spaghetti sauce in the past few weeks, I thought that would be an appropriate starting point. Plus, who doesn't like Spaghetti?
Red wine in tomato sauce does a couple of important things. First, it adds a whole other level of flavor and depth to your sauce and second, it acts as the acid if you are canning. Many years ago, tomatoes had plenty of acid. As time has marched on and breeders have worked to create new varietals for traits like color and sweetness, some of that acid has been bred out of the fruit. To make your canning safe, adding some additional acid in the way of wine or vinegar is a great choice. Wine definitely wins for taste.
Here's how I roll: I harvest the freshest and most ripe tomatoes I've got. Any given day it's about 2 gallons after they are cored. I grab a large onion and a few bell peppers, whatever is fresh and ripe. Oh, and a couple of cloves of garlic. I heat a stock pot and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. In go the roughly chopped onion and peppers to sauté. I literally core the tomatoes, chop them in four big chunks and toss them into the pot as I go. Cherry tomatoes go in whole after the little stem is pulled off and will split open as they heat up. After all the tomatoes are in, I add salt, pepper, the garlic cloves and wine (usually at least 1/2 a bottle). I add oregano and basil to my liking (totally personal preference here) then let the whole pot bubble over medium until the tomatoes become visibly softened.
At this point, I grab my immersion blender. If you don't have one, i suggest you consider the purchase. They can be had at Big Lots for under $20 and will become your new favorite kitchen tool. I blend the slowly boiling sauce by pulsing, until the sauce is smooth. Then the heat is reduced to low and the whole thing simmers for a few hours. How long you simmer really depends on how thick a sauce you prefer. The longer it cooks, the more it will reduce and thicken. When I'm satisfied with the consistency, I sneak a little taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
I ladle the hot sauce into sterilized ball jars, leaving about two inches of space (also know as "head-room" at the top). I wipe any drips off the lip of the jar with a warm, damp kitchen towel so that it can form a strong bond to the lid. A lid (I always use #BallJars) goes on each jar and a metal ring is screwed on to hold the lid in place. I've usually started water heating in the hot water canner and can load the jars into the rack that fits inside. The rack full of jars is lowered into the hot water and the lid goes on the canner for about 35 minutes.
The timer goes off and the jars are lifted out and placed on a kitchen towel to catch any hot water and cool off. My favorite part of canning is hanging out in my kitchen during the cooling process and listening for the distinct "pop" of each lid pressurizing. This noise signals a successful seal. After the jars have completely cooled, I make sure to label them with the contents of the jar and the date.
The proportions I gave above yield about (8) quart jars of spaghetti sauce. You can truly reduce or multiply this recipe with excellent results. Like it hot? Add some hot pepper flakes or chilis before the puree step and voila! You've made diablo sauce.
One final word on wine-don't pick something that's crappy. Seriously. You want to taste the delicious flavors so cook with something that you'd drink. NEVER use the "cooking wine" sold at the grocery store. It's gross. In the batch pictured, I used a lovely bottle of 2007 #Raymond Merlot. It had a little age on it and the tart cherry and spicy black pepper nuances were perfect with the robust tomatoes. So perfect, that no-one would judge if you enjoyed a glass as you worked. Cheers!
PRO TIP: Want to learn more about food and wine? My favorite resource ever is a book by Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page. It may hold a record for the world's longest book title: What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers
We’ve had a few rainy days in a row. After such a dry spell, my garden seems to have exploded overnight. Almost 30 pounds of veggies this morning! I’m thinking a big load of salsa might be in order. What’s your favorite kind? Traditional, spicy, fruity? I tend to always make a middle-of-the-road sort because I can large amounts of it. I’m going to shake it up this year!
I received a cool gift today in the mail. A new book, written by Sandro Bottega (president of Distilleria Bottega) and Peter Dowling (Author and Publisher). This book is about the relationship between Grappa and food. Can’t wait to read more about it.
While Grappa is made from grapes, it is in fact a distillate and not wine. Ehh- close enough for inspiration and a good jumping-off point for me to talk about my former life. I owned a Restaurant/Wine Bar for close to two decades. I prepared menus, designed wine lists, flight programs and an annual tasting series. I was pretty good at it, actually. While my first love is growing and cooking food, wine is probably next.
I’ll be writing about food and wine a bit more. The relationship between the two is so symbiotic that I thought ya’ll might like a few tips about how to cook with it and serve it successfully.
Stay tuned and many thanks to @DistilleriaBottega for thinking of me.
I've kept chickens for many years. They technically belong to my eldest son, Franky but we all love these silly, squawky ladies. Until recently, the "Girls" had free reign of the yard and only the garden was protected from their ravenous appetites. As a master gardener, it has bummed me out that I didn't have the gorgeous collection of plants and lovely patio of my green-thumbed peers. The chickens ate everything and left, ahem, "reminders" of their presence all over the place. Great for the grass but not the patio. This spring, I set out to change that and have been renovating like a crazy person.
The last parts of my patio makeover are nearing completion and the end is definitely in sight.
I love entertaining casually in the summer. Easy and delicious nosh is a must. Here are three unusual, but equally delicious dips for you to try. Many of the ingredients can use up extra garden goodies, too!
Pineapple Fruit Salsa
From my friend, Julie Olovich. She served this years ago at a neighborhood gals dinner.
Serve with tortilla chips
One pineapple, peeled, cored and diced
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (be sure to wear gloves working with hot peppers)
½ red onion, peeled and diced
1 fresh orange, seeded, segmented and chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of one lime
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive (not metal) bowl. Allow to chill at least an hour before serving.
Spicy Peanut Dip
Serve with raw veggies or pita chips
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup spicy hot salsa
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of Tabasco (to taste)
Combine ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and serve.
Tomato-Pesto Cream Cheese Dip
Serve with crackers or toasted baguette
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 small (10.5 oz) package of fresh goat cheese, softened
1 teaspoon oregano (fresh, if possible)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
Small jar of basil pesto (6.3 oz) or your own!
Mix together the cream cheese, goat cheese, oregano, salt and pepper. Spread 1/3 this mixture into the bottom of a small, square dish lined with plastic wrap. Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top. Spread another 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes. Spread the basil pesto on top and then spread the final layer of cream cheese mixture atop that.
Chill for at least an hour. To serve, turn the dish upside-down on a serving platter and gently pull off the plastic wrap. This makes a very eye-catching appetizer.
If you’re interested in serving drinks with each of these, here’s what I’d offer:
Pineapple & Mango Fruit Salsa- Mexican beer like Dos Equis or Sol
Spicy Peanut Dip- Sparkling white wine like Prosecco
Tomato-Pesto Cream Cheese Dip- Pinot Grigio if you like white wine and an easy-drinking Chianti if you like red
Cheers to Summer!
Thinking about what to do with all these pretties. I’m considering a fresh tomato salad. Has your harvest started? #tomatos #gardenfresh #lunchfromthebackyard
I'm a dill lover. I enjoy it on just about anything and sour dill pickles are at the top of my list. With the abundance of cucumbers that most gardeners are experiencing right now, I thought I'd share some easy recipes for refrigerator pickles.
So I am into canning, and seasonally I make big batches of pickles and use hot water baths to process them so they can be stored in my pantry. This is a fairly time-consuming process and sometimes a bit of instant gratification is in order. Refrigerator pickles are just as tasty as the others, but they can only be kept in the fridge. These recipes make only a few jars each. I think you'll enjoy them so much that they won't last that long anyway.
SOUR DILL REFRIGERATOR PICKLES
3 PICKLING CUCUMBERS (4-ISH INCHES LONG, EACH)
1/4 OUNCE FRESH DILL, CHOPPED PLUS A FEW SPRIGS
1/2 CUP WHITE VINEGAR
1/2 CUP WATER
2 CLOVES GARLIC, CRUSHED
1 1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER SALT
1/4 TEASPOON SUGAR
1/2 TEASPOON WHOLE MUSTARD SEEDS
1/4 TEASPOON WHOLE PEPPERCORNS
WASH CUCUMBERS AND CUT OFF BOTH ENDS. SLICE AS YOU LIKE AND PACK THEM TIGHTLY INTO WIDE-MOUTH PINT JARS. TUCK THE DILL SPRIGS INTO JARS.
COMBINE VINEGAR, WATER, AND SPICES OVER MEDIUM HEAT AND BRING TO A BOIL, STIRRING UNTIL SUGAR DISSOLVES.
COOL TO ROOM TEMPERATURE, THEN POUR OVER THE CUCUMBERS. SCREW ON A LID AND REFRIGERATE FOPR A MINIMUM OF OVERNIGHT.
*PRO TIP: THIS IS ALSO GREAT IF YOU ADD 1/2 TEASPOON OF CRUSHED RED PEPPER FLAKES. I USE IT TO PICKLE FRESH GREEN BEANS IN THE SAME WAY. #CHILIDILLYBEANS
QUICK BREAD & BUTTER PICKLES
6 PICKLING CUCUMBERS (4ISH INCHES LONG, EACH), SLICED IN 1/4 INCH "CHIPS"
1 1/2 TABLESPOONS KOSHER SALT
1 CUP SWEET ONIONS, THINLY SLICED
1 CUP SUGAR
1 CUP WHITE VINEGAR
1/2 CUP APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
1/4 CUP BROWN SUGAR
1 1/2 TEASPOON MUSTARD SEEDS
1/2 TEASPOON CELERY SEEDS
1/8 TEASPOON GROUND TURMERIC
SPINKLE CUCUMBER SLICES WITH SALT AND LEAVE THEM IN THE FRIDGE TO CHILL FOR AN HOUR. DRAIN THEM AND RINSE IN COLD WATER.
ADD THE SLICED ONION AND TOSS.
COMBINE SUGAR, VINEGARS, BROWN SUGAR AND SPICES OVER MEDIUM HEAT AND STIR UNTIL SUGAR HAS DISSOLVED.
POUR THIS OVER THE CUCUMBER/ONION MXTURE AND LET IT SIT AT ROOM TEMP FOR ABOUT AN HOUR. DIVIDE INTO JARS AND COVER WITH A LID.
PICKLES ARE READY AFTER CHILLING OVERNIGHT AND CAN BE ENJOYED FOR UP TO A MONTH, STORED IN THE FRIDGE.
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.