Archive for September, 2010

Freshly Picked Tomato Sauce

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Despite the fact that our Seattle summer has been less than stellar – I have been fortunate to have a bounty of tomatoes. And not just the green ones like I had last summer. This year they turned every shade of brilliant orange and deep red and vivid yellow. The colors reminded me of a beautiful fall afternoon.

There are hundreds of tomato recipes out there. But I wanted to honor these little beauties. I didn’t want to mask their sweet flavor with heavy spices or any kind of accompaniment. So a simple tomato sauce was in order. I originally called this a “marinara” but learned that a traditional marinara sauce incorporates Italian spices. So this is simply “sauce.”

Having never prepared this – I immediately contacted my culinarily gifted friend Colleen. She seems to know how to cook just about everything. She advised me to forgo using a ton of garlic – which was definitely counterintuitive to me. I am a garlic fiend. And she also recommended adding a bit of butter to finish the sauce. Again – not something I would have considered. But as it turns out – both suggestions were genius. I resisted adding a lot of garlic so the sweetness of the tomatoes really shone through. And the butter at the end added the perfect touch – balancing the acidity of the tomatoes and giving the sauce a sumptuous, velvety texture.

I tossed this gorgeous sauce with a lovely pasta and topped it with fresh basil and shaved Parmesan Reggiano. It tasted like summer in a bowl.

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Freshly Picked Tomato Sauce

Yield: ~ 4 cups


  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups chopped, fresh tomatoes
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter


Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and peeled, WHOLE cloves of garlic. Turn heat down to low and sauté until onions start to disintegrate – about 15 minutes. Remove garlic cloves.

Add tomatoes and salt (about 1-2 teaspoons) and continue to sauté over low heat for about 1 hour – stirring frequently.

Allow sauce to cool for about 10 minutes then process using a hand mill. If you don’t have one of these – try straining through a sieve. You’re trying to remove any skins from the tomatoes. This is especially important if you’re using cherry tomatoes as you’ll have more skins – which can be bitter and a bit tough. If you don’t strain or mill the sauce – consider adding a touch of sugar of balsamic vinegar to off-set the bitterness of the skins.

Put sauce back over medium heat and add the butter. While not mandatory, the butter will add some body to the sauce – making it velvety and evening out the acidity of the tomatoes.

Serve immediately. Or can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. But … eat it immediately if at all possible!

Indian Curry

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Ever since my inaugural chutney attempt, I’ve been looking for an appropriately delicious curry with which to pair it. And I think I found it. I’ve been making curries for years – relying solely on “curry powder” that comes in handy little jars from the grocery store. I’ve always known that a true curry, at least the Indian version*, is made from mixing a bunch of ingredients together to make up the famously vivid yellow sauce.  However I have been intimidated by the long list of exotic spices needed to make it authentic.

I’m happy to report that I finally overcame my insecurities. Thank goodness my friend Leslie reassured me that it’s really not that difficult. Yes, you need to purchase a number of spices – many that might not be all that familiar. And some funky looking ingredients like whole cloves and cardamom pods (pictured) are critical elements. But I urge you to head straight for Whole Foods – or any other grocery store that sells spices in bulk. Just grab a teaspoon of this and a tablespoon of that and voila! You’ll have all the spices needed to make this mouth-watering dish. And once you have all the ingredients – the preparation is a walk in the park.

The recipe below is for Indian Curry Sauce. I paired mine with roasted cauliflower, green beans and chickpeas. I also tossed in some fresh spinach before serving it over brown jasmine rice. And of course I topped it with my fresh peach chutney and a smattering of flaked coconut.  This sauce would pair very well with chicken or shrimp. And I’ve no doubt you can rustle up some pretty decent pre-made chutney – a mandatory accompaniment in my book.


Curry Sauce
Yield: enough sauce for ~ 8 servings (you can freeze half for later use)


  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic – crushed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 4 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 2 tablespoons crushed coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (to taste)


Heat oil in a large sauté pan and add diced onions. Sauté approximately 5 minutes on medium high and then add crushed garlic and grated ginger. Continue to cook over low heat for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, measure out turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom powder, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt and mix together. Add spice mixture to sautéed onions and cook over low 10-15 minutes. (Note – be prepared to have your cooking implements stained a vivid yellow by the turmeric!)

Add cardamom pods and cloves along with coconut milk and yogurt and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. I used Greek yogurt which has a lower water content than regular yogurt – so I added about a half a cup of water to loosen up the curry sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings – adding a bit of sugar will enhance the flavor.

When you’re ready to serve, remove cardamom pods and cloves.

Note:  I did a bit of research into the word “curry” and Wikipedia explained that it is a “generic description used throughout European culture to describe a general variety of side dishes, best known in South Asian cuisines, especially Indian cuisine. It is analogous to “soup” or “stew” in that there is no particular ingredient that makes something “curry.” The word curry is an anglicised version of the Tamil word kari (கறி ), which is usually understood to mean “gravy” or “sauce” rather than “spices”.