Jan has a large cook book collection, hundreds of cook books. These books inspire and educate, but mostly they sit there. Too often we save the recipes from cook books, for special occasions or guests. Isn't it a special occasion every we time cook?? I certainly think so, and I know Jan does too. We cook together everyday, most times off the cuff, with the ingredients at hand, the cook books just serving to clarify a technique we want to try or an ingredient combination we haven't quite mastered. I personally do not enjoy following recipes, I like to improvise, so following book recipes will be a change of pace to say the least.
The first recipe I'm trying is from Chef Michael White's book Classico E Moderno. Last summer while in New York for the Fancy Food Show, we ate at Chef White's Marea Restaurant, it was a true fine dining experience. Chef White is a renowned for his interpretation of Italian classics, so who better to get a sauce recipe from. Tomato sauce is one of those basic recipes that everyone should be able to execute, it can be done ahead of time or the day of. Its something that we can always find a use for.
Salsa Pomodoro- Tomato Sauce with Basil (Recipe by Michael White)
1/4 cup Olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic
1/4 of a large red bell pepper (cored, seeded, and diced)
1 28 ounce can of San Marazano (whole) tomatoes with juice
Leaves from 1 small bunch of basil
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
As I prepared the ingredients for this recipe, one of the first things I noticed was that it didn’t call for any onion. I was surprised, in every pasta sauce I had ever made I always started with onion. In any case I proceeded according to the recipe.
Heat the oil in a medium bottom pot until glistening, almost smoking
Add the garlic and cook until brown.
Once the garlic is brown add the diced red pepper and cook for about a minute.
Add the entire can of tomatoes including the juice, and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, and half of the basil. (The basil should be in chiffonades)
Heat the entire mixture until simmering and then reduce heat to low, and cook for an hour or until sauce thickens.
Stir in the other half of the basil
Like the ingredients, the recipe for this sauce was very simple. Still, a recipe this simple hinges on the execution of simple tasks, for example browning the garlic. The recipe says to heat the oil until its glistening, almost smoking, and then add the garlic. Well I got the oil too hot and almost burned the garlic. Burnt garlic gives off a bitter taste that would permeate the sauce. Fortunately I realized the garlic was browning too quickly and removed it. (I added it back later, once the sauce was going)
This recipe also does not give measurements for the seasoning, which I liked. Seasoning and how much to add is really up to the cook, it’s a question of your tastes and should be left up to you, not a measurement.
After I combined the ingredients and began to cook the sauce, I became concerned about the amount of liquid in the sauce, there just wasn't much. The stove I was cooking on doesn’t heat evenly, and the pot I was using heats up quickly, and retains the heat, not the best combo for a sauce you need slowly simmer. The sauce never scalded or burned but I considered abandoning the recipe and adding some chicken stock. For me this is where the real cooking occurs, in not abandoning the recipe but in finding ways to adapt to your equipment and capabilities. I moved the pot to a smaller burner and occasionally covered it to retain some of the liquid. In the future when I make this sauce, I will use a different pot. After an hour of simmering, I was left with a silky smooth, and flavorful sauce, with chunks of tomato, easily the best sauce I have ever made. Depending on the number of people you plan on serving I would double the recipe, I found that it yielded enough sauce for 2-3 people. I served it over freshly made angel hair pasta, and we added some turkey sausage to the sauce. Did I mention it was the best sauce I have ever made?