Tag Archives: canned tomato

Pizza measures up

I decide a few weeks ago to write more on pizza, because there’s more then one good pizza, and pizza just needs more attention.  Because it’s so common and easy to come by, I think that pizza gets overlooked.

Unless it’s being made far too much of by certain foodie sorts, who want it to ‘authentic in every detail.’ Usually meaning tricky, difficult, expensive, exclusive. All the things that pizza is not.

Plymouth has several places that offer really good – and really varied pizzas. There is Italian pizza and southern Italian pizza  and  Greek pizza and even Brazilian pizza as well as not one, but 2, chain  pizza places all in the general downtown area.

And there’s still more pizza to make at home.

Last week the New York Times jumped my pizza story by 2 days because the food pages come out on Wednesdays, with Sam Sifton’s  story “A Little Homework” which is about – you guessed it – making pizza at home.

Here’s the link: A Little pizza Homework   on the website they added pizza to the article title.The video about making the dough is very good. Notice that Falco uses only his hands to mix the flour and water to make up the dough – no spoons to wash up!

Sifton’s right – making pizza dough is easy peasy. And it can keep in the fridge for days, so you can find the time. It’s the special flour that I have a problem with. If you don’t have any 00 Italian flour on hand – make the dough anyhow. If you’re hot to try it, you can order it on line. King Arthur Flour has an Italian Pizza blend that’s like 00 flour, if Italian Pizza blend flour isn’t on your grocery store shelves.kaf Italina flourThere’s another video on pizza at How2heroes which calls for bread flour instead of 00…

What I like about all this is that the sauce is simplicity itself – canned tomatoes, olive oil and a little salt, blenderized.

waring blender

Time to pull out the blender…sometimes I just use crushed tomatoes on pizza.

The other thing I like is that he weighs out the ingredients, which with flour ESPECIALLY makes a world of difference, although with this small amount and for this particular items, eyeballing it will work. But if you don’t have a kitchen scale…here’s the one I’m lusting after now, and if I remember – someday will be the replacement for the perfectly fine but takes up too much room scale that I have now.

foldingscale

The Tri fold Folding Scale

Another version - the scale folds up

Another version – the scale folds up

 

This is the scale I have now - it has plenty of measuring left in it

This is the scale I have now – it has plenty of measuring left in it

The other, other thing I like in the paper was a sidebar on what to drink with pizza. The answer is – Drumroll, please –

Just about everything!

To quote Eric Asimov:

One thing never worth fretting about is what to drink with pizza. What could be bad? Nothing. (Please pause and reflect here. Talk among yourselves) The Italians seem to prefer beer or cola (Note: in my family, orange soda) I think anything with bubbles is delicious. Dry Lambrusco is great. So is Champagne, believe it or not, especially with the Green and White Pies. …..and there are more and more recommendations and the last line is 

What to drink with pizza? Whatever you like.

 

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Red Gravy…on a just another Meatless Monday

NOT to be confused with red-eye gravy,

Red eye gravy needs a ham steak a-frying and some black coffee to make it, well, red-eye. If there are some long cooked greens and some grits nearby, maybe a biscuit....heaven comes in many forms

Red eye gravy needs a ham steak a-frying and some black coffee to make it, well, red-eye. If there are some long cooked greens and some grits nearby, maybe a biscuit….heaven comes in many forms

which is delightful in it’s own right, just not a tomato sauce to put on macaroni.

This is not Sunday Gravy which always has meat, just basic marinara. Because Italian isn’t as nearly as much one language with dialects as it claims to be, as several languages that have a common Italian accent. The words for sauce/gravy include  sugo/salsa al/di pomodoro or pummarola ...and there are more, and that’s barely getting us out of something with tomatoes that goes over pasta type sauce, and there is a world of others….little wonder they translate into so many variations….not so much”same meat/different gravy”  as “Same gravy/different names”.

Back to the story….

One of the things I discovered when I moved out on my own  that as a single, the pantry and proportions of food I grew up within a large family were completely wrong.

I had to start over and reinvent the wheel.,

Or at least the rotelle…

Rotelle - wheel shaped pasta

Rotelle – wheel shaped pasta

Especially the rotelle – and all the other macaronis. (Back in the day, we called them ‘macaronis’: we were macaroni eaters )

Mangiamaccheroni - we were not allowed to us our hands...

Mangiamaccheroni – we were not allowed to eat macaroni with our hands at the table – EVER.

My mother’s red gravy – or tomato sauce as we say now – was a BIG BATCH affair. Since I’m the oldest of six… and four of them were growing boys – with no dainty appetites – well, let’s just say this didn’t translate well for a single, especially one who decided to be a vegetarian.

But I had been reading about Italian food…..trying to find the dishes and the tastes that my family cooked and talked about.

We talked a lot about food. I thought everyone did. All the time.  I am an not a foodie, thank you very much, I am Italian.

Don’t be fooled by my Irish face – but back to the gravy.

James Beard to the rescue.

Beard on Pasta

Beard on Pasta

Red Gravy (for Winter)

28-oz can whole tomatoes (in puree)

2 small onions, diced*

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried basil (or one frozen stalk)**

4   Tablespoons Butter***

  1. Put the diced onion and basil in your saucepan.
  2. Open the can of tomatoes (make sure to wash the top of the can first, and when was the last time you cleaned that can opener?) Says the voice in my head –  maybe it’s just a Big Sister thing…).
  3. With your impeccably clean hands, pick out the tomatoes and crush them directly into the pan. No finger licking until the last tomato is in!
  4. Pour in whatever puree remains in the pan, and cook over medium high heat, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the butter at the end, letting it melt and enrich the sauce.
  6. If you use the frozen basil stalk, fish it out before serving.
  7.  If you want a super smooth sauce, puree in the food processor or force through a strainer. I never want a smoother sauce more then I don’t want more dishes…
  8. If you’ve started a pot of water for your macaroni at the same time everything should be done together.

James Beard. Beard On Pasta. Alfred A. Knopf. 1983. p.73.

* He says sliced. He doesn’t say garlic, which I add a clove or two, well chopped.

**I freeze basil in the summer – it turns black and scary looking, but leaves a great basil taste. JB suggests that oregano or tarragon could be used.  Oregano is fine – with or without basil; I would go so far as to suggest even a very little rosemary or the merest pinch of a fresh sage leaf. A pinch of cinnamon is very good, too. Tarragon?? It would seem that Mamma Beard was NOT from Italy.

***This was the very first time I had ever seen butter and tomatoes together in a pot. I used olive oil for years, and one day got brave….it IS very good.

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One Hot Tomato

Just another meatless Monday…..

If you asked my mother, she’ll tell you I don’t like tomatoes.

Tomato_scanned

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I LOVE tomatoes, and it is out of love of tomatoes that I pick them out salads all winter long.

I love tomatoes fresh from the garden, which here in Plymouth is possibly July, definitely August and into early September.

I buy tomatoes at the Plymouth Farmers Market and sometimes from roadside stands – and there do seem to be fewer of them with each passing year – and I accept them – greedily- fresh from the gardens of my friends and family.

Random passing strangers with bulging bags of fresh produce are never turned away, either.

It wasn’t until I moved out and lived on my own that I realized I didn’t have to eat pink cottony golf balls that are sold under the name of tomato in winter time – nicely packaged in little plastic crates – at all.Bright_red_tomato_and_cross_section02

I also love all sorts of canned tomato products, and dried tomatoes and tomato paste, especially in the little toothpaste like tube.Progresso canned tomatotomato paste tube

I needed one tomato to make Flora’s Lentils and Macaroni, so I did what I always do in the winter in the grocery store – I bee lined it straight for the mark down produce rack.

My winter shopping often starts here.

I started collected cauliflower recipes because it was so often found here, and often for under a dollar.

Good Eats at a Great Price!

And often things are repackaged or trimmed in such a way that for the single or single plus one, a much more reasonable haul.

So I found a package of tomatoes, one of which went into the lentils…what to do with the rest?

And FAST – even at LOW LOW prices I don’t want to pay cash money for compost.

One way to improve and generally pump up the flavor of tomatoes is to heat them up. Think hot summer sun and fresh off the vine……

These tomatoes are a long way from their vine, and the sun is not heating up much here (or if it is, the snowfall is masking it it). That leaves cooking them.

But First – a few words about

Jacques Pepin

Jacques Pepin in 2006

Jacques Pepin in 2006

Years ago,on some cooking show (but it was in color so after 1977)  where Jacques was trimming various vegetables, cutting and chatting and moving the trimmed bits into a scrap bowl….and then he caught sight of these so-called scraps out of the corner of his eye, and paused, speechless. With the knife still in one hand, with the other he pulled (and for the life of me I can NOT remember what) part of the discard OUT of the scrap bowl . He peered below the counter. He put down the knife, pulled out a second bowl, placed the now NOT garbage vegetative bits in second bowl and said either “for soup” or “for something else” and continued with the regular show.

This whole maneuver probably took under 10 seconds.

It also summed what I dislike most about cooking shows and  food magazines –

In the quest for the best,

 We toss aside far too much of the very good and the perfectly fine.

There’s a world of good eating, and often very, very good eating, in the bits that aren’t best. Cooking /seasoning/mixing things up together can make good things better.

And this is why I’m a major Jacques Pepin fan. He saved the good. Even when it wasn’t part of the script. Bravo, Jacques!

And now for

Pappa al pomodoro

(One Hot Tomato Bread Soup)

 

1 large out of season tomato

1 Tbs olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

4 oz day old, slightly stale crusty bread*

1 oz fresh basil or fresh rocket, coarsely chopped **

Salt and pepper, to taste

Olive oil (for sprinkling)

1 Tbl grated Parmesan cheese***

  1. Core and peel the tomato, then roughly chop, saving the drippings.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stirringly cook until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.

  3. Add tomato and juice and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes or until tomato starts to soften and break down.

  4. Add the bread to the tomato. Continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the bread soaks up the sauce.

  5. Stir in the leafy greens, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes more. Scrape into a warm bowl and sprinkle with more olive oil and grated cheese.

adapted from Pappa al pomodoroThe Boston Globe, August 20, 2008. Jonathan Levitt.

* I’m using one of Jenny’s Bread Cheese Rolls, hence the weight  specific. Otherwise part of a stale loaf – pull it apart and leave it out for a while to hurry the staling (for the truly impatient a minute or two in the oven will dry it out)

** I almost never have fresh basil in the house in the winter (too cold grow citrus is also too cold to keep basil; I freeze it, which turns it black, which is fine for sauce because you can fish it out before serving, but this needs a little more substance). Rocket is another name for arugula and you need some zingy-zangy greenage to add here.

*** I actually prefer Romano, but PLEASE -nothing fr0m the green shaker can!

Pappa al pomodoro - pappa is indeedy related to pap....and pomodoro is tomato

Pappa al pomodoro – pappa is indeedy related to pap….and pomodoro is tomato

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