Tag Archives: red gravy

Postmortem

patrica cornwell Postmortem

is the name of a book by Patrica Cornwell and there was a copy in the coffee shop last week, so I took it home for a weekend read.

kisskadee interior

The coach is now in another nook, but around that corner is a bookcase for take one or leave one library. And, yes, MOM, I’ve left plenty.Like I’ll leave this little murder mystery. Eventually.

I’ve read it before, but a good mystery can be read more then once. Patrica Cornwell also has Dr. Kay Scarpetta  (the focus character) be a good enough that she is mentioned on the cover of  a cookbook….

Food to Die For

I’ve mentioned this cookbook before – in

Wednesdays Were Chili Nights and

Fresh Garlic Soup

A little quote from Postmortem:

When all else fails, I cook.

Some people go out after a god-awful day and slam a tennis ball around or jog their joints to pieces on a fitness course. I had a friend in Coral Gables who would escape to the beach with her folding chair and burn off her stress with sun and a slightly pornographic romance she wouldn’t have been caught dead reading in her professional world—she was a district court judge. Many of the cops I know wash away their miseries with beer at the FOP lounge.

I’ve never been particularly athletic, and there wasn’t a decent beach within reasonable driving distance. Getting drunk never solved anything. Cooking was an indulgence I didn’t have time for most days, and though Italian cuisine isn’t my only love, it has always been what I do best.

– Cornwell, Patricia. Postmortem. Impress. 1990. p. 128

This is the other reason I keep going back to Kat Scarpetta. I, too, don’t play tennis or swim or get drunk and I don’t have time for cooking – really cooking , not just throwing something together   –  most days. But if I can knead dough or roll out a pastry or chop some onions and add tomatoes……order returns to the world.

Anyhow, Kay goes on to make a pizza with more topping then I would put on a pie, but that’s just me.I’ve got a few mushrooms, and of course, onions and garlic, and there’s a sausage or two lurking in the freezer….I may have to go to the corner store for mozzarella, in which case it will probably be the pre-shredded stuff…..easy-easy

 

Pizza

Dough:
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cup  bread flour (Of course, I do not make a trip to the store just for this. I’ve used white, wheat and a combination of all three. Bread flour with the higher gluten takes more abuse and makes a very nice crust)
1 packet yeast (I buy in bulk and I have a special yeast measuring spoon, so I have to look up how much that is every-time I write a recipe out. It’s 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup very warm water
1 tablespoon honey (this actually helps with the browning and moisture content of the finished crust – if you don’t have honey, just leave it out. Sugar will make it a weensy bit sweeter but won’t work like honey.But the little dab of honey is really a secret ingredient and makes this dough different then other doughs)
2 tablespoon olive oil (+ more for the pan)

1) In a medium bowl, combine 3 cups of flour, yeast and salt. Stir in warm water, honey and oil, stirring until mixture begins to leave the sides of the bowl.

2) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Knead for about 10 minutes or until it is soft, smooth and elastic, adding enough of the remaining flour to keep the dough from sticking.

3) Place the dough in a large greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel  Let the dough rise for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled.

5) Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface knead to release the air bubbles. Cut the dough in half and shape each into a ball. Cover and let rest while preparing your toppings.

Toppings:

3/4 pound whole milk fresh mozzarella or 3 cups pre-shredded (if you’re not gonna get the fresh stuff – which is just about everywhere these days, unlike in 1990…just get the pre-shredded stuff. If you have fresh, cut it up and place on paper towels to drain. If you use your salad spinner as a colander, you can even give it a spin or two to shake off the excess moisture)

Any or all of the following:

2 Tbls olive oil

4 cloves (or more) of garlic, sliced or diced

2 sausages, whichever you like

2 bell peppers, any color or combination of colors, cut into strips

2 slice onions ( I’ve used red, yellow, white, Vidalia – no bad choices here) slice thin (or chopped if you’d prefer)

1 large Portabello mushroom or other ‘shrooms to equal 1 1/2 cups cut up

a little more olive oil

basil, oregano

salt and black pepper

2 cups red gravy

1/2 cup grated (freshly – use the fine side of the grater!) Parmigiano-Reggiano

  1. Is the mozzarella draining? Start draining.
  2.  Put the olive oil in a pan (big enough to hold your topping) Put in the slice sausage, then onion, then peppers, then mushrooms, then garlic…stir it all around. You want to shake all the raw out, and start the carmelization.
  3. Drain on a paper towel
  4. Preheat oven to 450°.
  5. You can make 2 -12 inch pizzas, or one big pan pizza (10 x 15) or make one pizza and freeze the other half of the dough for later.
  6. Oil you pan, roll, stretch or pat your dough into place
  7. spread dough with sauce (1 cup for each 12 inch pizza – adjust accordingly)
  8. Add toppings
  9. Put mozzarella on top and sprinkle lightly with Parmigiano-Reggiano
  10. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is beginning to brown.
  11. Cut into pieces and mangia tutti!

 

 

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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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