Every year for at least the last 15 years, I have made a batch of roasted tomato sauce in late August or early September. I usually make a large batch and freeze a couple of containers’ worth of sauce to use for a while, but this year I only made a half-batch. It came out really thick and dark this year, with deep flavor. Maybe the best batch I’ve made in several years. I like to use it with baked pasta dishes, but I had a package of pappardelle in the cupboard and thought it might be good with the big noodles. I browned up half a pound of Italian sausage and added it to about 2/3 cup of the sauce and let that simmer to meld the flavor, then combined it with the cooked pasta and few tablespoons of the pasta water.
I am thinking of using some as a base to add to a lighter tomato sauce for something like chicken cacciatore. I love chicken baked in tomato sauce, and I think the hearty roasted sauce will be perfect with onions and peppers.
Pork tenderloin with sauteed green beans and rice pliaf
With our daughter back home for a couple of weeks before going off to start her senior year of college, I felt like I should make at least an attempt at home-cooked meals. Like the spaghetti I mentioned in the last post, this was a very modest affair. A small pork tenderloin rubber with Penzey’s Bavarian Seasoning, a rice pilaf package mix, and some green beans sauteed with sliced garlic and red pepper flakes.
Because the tenderloin was so small (3/4lb), I just cooked it in the grill pan for five minutes per side and it was perfectly pink in the middle. (If you are still cooking pork to death, please stop.) For larger ones, I usually sear them on the stovetop, then finish in the oven for 12-15 minutes to get the same doneness. I sometimes like a little HP sauce with pork, but this was quite tasty with just the spice rub. Penzey’s rubs are always great.
For the green beans, you want to par-cook them first, dry them off thoroughly so the water doesn’t make the oil splatter, then sautee them for a couple of minutes in olive oil. Add red pepper flakes to the olive oil as it is heating up, then add a couple of cloves of sliced garlic and let the garlic toast up just a bit befre you add the green beans. If you time it right, the garlic slices will get lightly brown and a bit crisp.
Tomato slices with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil
The two container tomato plants I have in our backyard haven’t been super-productive, but I have had several very nice tomatoes from them, with a couple more on the way (provided the squirrel or chipmunk who has been getting to them before I can does not strike again).
On Sunday, we had a very basic dinner of spaghetti (with Rao’s marinara sauce, which is our current go-to jarred sauce) and sweet Italian sausages, and I sliced up this tomato to have alongside. A drizzle each of a high-quaity balsamic and EVOO, with a spirnkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper is all I need on a fresh tomato.
We really love the zero-effort baked feta and tomatoes pasta sauce that hit the internet in a viral TikTok video in 2020. My wife made this for dinner earlier this week using a container of multi-colored grape tomatoes, along with some garlic and fresh basil, and using fettucine as the pasta. Having made it several times, we agreed that Campari tomatoes are the best ones to use in this dish, but our superamarket does not always have them. If you can’t find Campari tomatoes either, the next best choice is regular cherry tomatoes. Any block feta will do, but don’t use crumbled.
This is the first time we’ve used fettucine, and I have to say I think it’s the perfect choice. The finished sauce loves the flat noodles. We also liked it with bucatini, although that shape is usually associated with Amatriciana sauce. of course, spaghetti will work, if that’s all you have.
NY Strip steak with peppers and onions, baked potato
I have tried most of the preparation methods people suggest for steak – grilling, pan-frying, sous vide, reverse sear – and for my money I still get the best results in my cast-iron skillet. Four minutes a side, flipping every two minutes, with a four-minute rest produces a medium-rare steak and lagely escapes the “gray ring” of overcooked outer meat. I picked up the two-minute flip technique from Sam The Cooking Guy on YouTube. You do have to have the pan pretty hot to get a good Maillard reaction in the short surface time, and using a high-smokepoint oil like avocado oil is a good idea.
I think New York strip is my favorite cut, even though I think ribeye tastes better. The extra fat on a ribeye is great for flavor, but it makes the steak a little greasy.
For this steak, I first sauteed up some sliced onion and green bell pepper in a small amount of bacon fat in the cast-iron skillet. The vegetables took up almost all the bacon fat, so there wasn’t any left over to burn in the pan. I put a smidge of avocado oil on the steak itself, along with salt and pepper, and used the same pan. The steak,smothered with the onions and peppers, was fantastic.
For baked potatoes, I usually follow America’s Test Kitchen’s method of dunking the potatoes in salted water before baking, but this time I only lightly brushed the potato with avocado oil. Both methods result in a super crispy skin after roasting at 450 degrees for one hour.
Vinegar chicken, asparagus with lbutter and lemon, corn
Jacques Pépin’s version of the classic Lyonnaise vinegar chicken recipe is a nice thing to do with leg quarters or bone-in thighs, and it’s actually really simple. It’s become my favorite thing to do with chicken pieces like this. I posted this recipe in my private Facebook group, and even convinced one friend, who eats almost no meat, to try it. Now it’s her favorite recipe!
Even though I love black olives, I usually leave them out. I also use some tomato sauce to add liquid instead of just water, and I feel like that adds a little complexity to the flavor. He doesn’t explicitly say so in the video, but you can see that he is using red wine vinegar, not white vinegar, and I have found that sherry vinegar also works very well.
The asparagus is simply chopped and steamed in a skillet with a couple of tablespoons of water, then once the water is gone, you add a tablespoon of butter, the juice of half a lemon, and season with salt and pepper. I usualy broil (or grill) whole asparagus spears with olive oil, lemon and garlic, but wanted something that didn’t need attention, since the chicken is also pretty low-effort. Made for a delicious Saturday night dinner.
Greek phyllo pizza with spinach, tomatoes, and Kalamata olives
This Greek phyllo pizza comes from the classic Molly Katzen cookbook “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest”. It’s one of our favorite recipes from that cookbook, and I’ve made it many, many times over the years. Like most of the recipes in that book, it’s a little time-consuming but not really complicated, and very much worth the effort.
You start by layering sheets of phyllo pastry dough, painting each one with a little bit of olive oil as you layer them. Once you’ve got the base put together, you sautee some fresh spinach with onions, garlic, and some lemon juice (I have also done it with frozen spinach, but it’s better with fresh), and spread that mixture on the base, along with shredded mozzarella. Then you top that with fresh sliced tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and crumbled feta. Bake until the edges of the phyllo are cirspy and golden and the cheese is melty.
I’ve got a couple of containered tomato plants in the back yard, and once they start producing fruit, I will be making this again sometime this summer. I’ll be sure to post a photo of that when it happens.
Waffles with vanilla roasted strawberries and bacon
Fathers’ Day breakfast 2020. The real star here is the vanilla roasted strwaberries. They make a fantastic topping for pancakes and waffles, and we have even used them as a topping for Dutch Baby. Oh, and ice cream. Amazing on ice cream. I found the recipe at SimplyRecipes.com. You should try them now, while fresh strawberries are available.
While our daughter has been for the few weeks in between the end of the semester and the start of her summer camp job, we’ve been cooking a little more than we had been. She’s off to Maine tomorrow, so I’m sure we’ll revert back to avoiding it as much as possible, but I did make these chipotle honey garlic spareribs for dinner on Wednesday.
The sauce is a cup of ketchup, 2/3 cup of honey, 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 4 tablespoons each of soy sauce and adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo), 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons of dried oregano, a couple of the canned chipotles chopped up, and 10(!!) cloves of garlic minced. You bake the ribs in the sauce, covered for about 90 minutes, then uncovered for another 30 minutes. (This amount of sauce is for 2-3 pounds of ribs)
To be honest, I do not put in all the adobo sauce it asks for. I find 2 tablespoons makes it hot and smoky enough for me. The very first time I made these years ago, I did the whole amount, and I almost could not eat them. Gauge according to your own tolerance for chipotle .
I did pork spare ribs this time, but I think I like this better with beef baby backs.
When I was a little boy, my grandmother used to make “American Chop Suey”, which was basically ground beef, tomato sauce, and pasta. Maybe some chopped onion, but definitely no herbs or spices or anything else. Sometimes the pasta was spaghetti, broken into small pieces, sometimes it was macaroni. Seems like the name “American Chop Suey” is a New England thing, because other people I know in other parts of the country call this same dish “Goulash” or even just “Macaroni and Beef”.
Sam The Cooking Guy, one of the cooking channels I regularly watch on YouTube, recently made his own improved version which he called “Homemade Hamburger Helper”, so I gave it a try and absolutely loved it. The significant change is the addition of Italian sausage meat along with the ground beef. Sam being Sam, though, he also adds onion, garlic, cheese, and a diced poblano pepper, which brought a good bit of peppery heat. Definitely not the bland dish Grammy used to make for me. Sam’s recipe would easily feed 8-10 people, so I cut it in half and ate oe half of that the first night and the other half as a leftover the next night.