Not getting a tax refund this year? That’s okay, neither did we. This week, Chef Brendan McDermott shows us how to make everyone’s favorite empty-wallet dinner: pasta.
Share your favorite homemade pasta sauce recipe with us. Have you made your own homemade pasta before?
Dinner: linguine w/andouille & little necks; arugula w/rice vinegar-glazed radishes & browned pear
greenmarket dinner for two: $20.60
Dinner tonight was about as appetizing as it looks. That is to say, not good.
One of my favorite things to do, especially when cooking just for myself, is be inventive. Generally, I have to admit I have decent success with this, as in last week’s amazing roasted cauliflower with capers, kalamatas, and red onion. That dish is now in my permanent roster.
Tonight, I wanted to use up a bag of brussels sprouts that had been kicking around in the fridge for a few weeks. I envisioned them slivered, and a nearly-crunchy brown, with lots of lemon and hot pepper flakes. Since brussels sprouts, alone, do not make much of a meal, I thought I’d toss them with some pasta. I had a bag of farfalle that should pair, size-and-texture-wise, somewhat nicely.
Brussels sprouts. Lemon zest. Lemon juice. Plenty of crushed red pepper flakes. Salt. So far, dinner was working nicely. A little flat, perhaps, but I figured I could fix that once the pasta was tossed into the pan.
Rosemary. A tiny knob of butter. More salt. More lemon. Parmesan. A blink of heavy cream? What was going on?
The flavors basically worked; or, at least, they didn’t not work. It was slightly tart from lemon, slightly rich from butter and cream, slightly spicy from crushed pepper. But there was no depth; the dish was flat. Not inedible - I don’t believe in wasting food - but certainly not enjoyable.
Perhaps pairing it with a crisp Prosecco would provide the missing depth and contrast, but Kit’s not here, and I’m not about to pop a bubbly alone. Certainly some pancetta might do the trick, but a dish shouldn’t need meat to have body.
Normally, I’d toss a little of my favorite, expensive finishing salt or a drizzle of prized Frankie’s Olive Oil on top of a dish to liven it up a bit. Tonight was the first time I’ve ever thought, why bother?
So why am I blogging about a dish so lackluster? Because this happens to everyone. We’ve all made dishes that, though perfectly edible, were still total failures. I’m hoping to figure out where this dish went wrong - not so I can necessarily revisit it someday, but simply because I need to know, for myself, as a cook. Because that - experimenting, succeeding, failing, experimenting again - is what being a cook is, to me.
Still in time for V’s Day dinner + dessert, here’s all you need if money’s short, your living room is cozier and your kitchen sounds more romantic than waiting in line for a table at any fancy restaurant in town.
Oh, also, check them out here they’re amazing.
Thanks to Working Class Foodies
Part 1 in a Tomato Sauce Series: Chez Pim’s 15-Minute Tomato Sauce
Tomatoes were my gateway drug into my addiction to non-conventional produce and the Farmer’s Market. Talk about new experiences, the first time I had a tomato from a farmer’s market in San Francisco, I said to my friend, “Holy sh*t, this is what a tomato tastes like!” Tomatoes from your typical grocery store are like cardboard in comparison. (Tangent: NEVER STORE YOUR TOMATOES IN THE FRIDGE. You will kill all flavor and end up w/ mealy tomatoes).
If you didn’t notice, it’s tomato season. I find myself buying a bunch of tomatoes every week. A friend challenged me to find the best tomato sauce recipe I could, and since I have all these tomatoes, it looks like I’m going to be eating a lot of pasta…
I’ve consulted some cookbooks and the internet for recipes. My first try comes from Chez Pim’s website. Frankly, I chose it b/c it was aptly titled, “15-Minute Tomato Sauce” and I had a social engagement to run off to in an hour. Check out the recipe on her website b/c Chez Pim breaks it down quite nicely w/ step by step illustrated directions.
- Add sauteed onions
- LOTS of garlic. Chez Pim suggests ” 1 or 2, or none at all…” Wha???
- Subtract the balsamic vinegar cause it was already quite flavorful
- Add chopped basil
- Grate parm-reg cheese
Yes, this is super easy and simple - But maybe more like 30 minutes, not 15. I like the technique of boiling the tomatoes and then removing the skin, though there are times I don’t have the time to go through all that (or too lazy). Not gonna lie, I got tomato juice all over myself as I hand crushed the tomatoes. This was also a single-serving attempt, so when I make a larger batch in the future I will use my food mill. Overall, this is a simple recipe that brings out great concentrated flavor of the tomatoes. I used the Big Boy variety and will have to try Romas (oblong shaped) next time.
Homemade tomato sauce is the only kind of tomato sauce you should have in your home. FACT.