Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lots of cooking

I have two unfinished conference papers harassing my bad academic conscience. But I still try to cook as a way to get over my guilt (I mean, the papers take forever, and I do need to relax sometimes).
The semester started this week, and we've been busy in the Lefty Cooks household. Blokey is teaching two classes, and I'm teaching three, although none of these are technically new preparations, teaching classes (especially when you're feeling nervous having just met the students) takes a lot of time and energy. And I only do it 4 hours, 2 times a week.
So when I do get home from my 12 hour days (including the transit time), I am ready for simple and delicious. I've been in love with the simple tomatoes, butter, and onion sauce featured at Smitten Kitchen, but I've seen reference to it elsewhere as well. It's about 3 ingredients (4, if your tomatoes don't have salt), 45 minutes of simmering, and then pure deliciousness.

Note about ingredients: Deb recommends that you use San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them. However, the tomatoes that she uses (and that I found at Gourmet Garage) are not actually San Marzano tomatoes. They are delicious canned tomatoes, but real San Marzanos must be labeled "D.O.P." or Denominazione d'Origine Protetta. This pretty and simply designed can has U.S. grown tomatoes and are distributed by some New Jersey based company. I think "San Marzano" is just a deceptive brand name.
But anyway, the sauce was still good. The half stick of butter probably contributed. It is so simple, that it doesn't require a formal recipe. Simmer a 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes and their juices in a saucepan over medium (and then low) heat, covered, with 1/2 a stick of real butter, and a small peeled onion, chopped in half.

Use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes during the 45 minute simmer.
Serve over freshly cooked pasta. We used linguine.

I've also been a corn bread kick. Our friend had us over her place a few weeks ago for a cooking party and we made a mess of chili, and all I could think afterwards was "my that would be nice with cornbread."
Blokey and I only have coarse ground corn bread (for polenta) and whole wheat flour, but I blended the "Yankee" and "Southern" cornbread recipes (I defy you, regionalism) and made this very nice pan ful to eat with black bean chili a few days ago.

The crumb is pretty big, but it's very hearty and yummy.

Non Mason-Dixon oriented Buttermilk corn bread (adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook)
1 1/2 c. of corn meal
1/2 c. of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. buttermilk (I didn't have the full amount so I used so low fat yogurt mixed with water too)
2 teas of baking powder
3 Tablespoons of sugar (this is the Northern influence)
3/4 teas of salt
1/2 teas of baking soda
2 "Flax" eggs (2 Tbs of ground flax, and 6 Tbs of warm water, mixed together until it created an egg like paste)* [you can just use eggs, but I didn't have any on hand and it turned out really nicely] Another Yankee influence
3 Tbs of melted butter (not too warm. I melted it in the 10" cast iron skillet so I didn't have to grease any pans)

Preheat to 450. Mix all the ingredients together and beat for 30 seconds. Pour into the greased pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until "golden brown". Serve warm with chili.

We also made Mark Bittman's cabbage salad:
It goes something like this:
Halve, core and cut a 1/2 cabbage into strips (we used 1/4 of a white cabbage and 1/4 of gorgeous red one from the CSA share). Grate some peeled carrots in. Add salt and drain in a colander for about an hour. Add some parsley or dried oregano to taste. It should be softer but not soggy after draining. Toss with apple cider vinegar. Add more salt if necessary. (We didn't use any olive oil, since our meals are so fatty in general. You can also use black pepper).


lisa said...

Deb is obviously a fantastic chef and her taste in tomatoes is first rate, however I must correct her comments regarding "real" San Marzano tomatoes: these are as real as any tomato labeled DOP. They are grown from Italian San Marzano seeds. The fact that they are grown in United States soil does not detract from their authenticity. Further, since they are grown, packaged, and shipped here in the U.S. the carbon footprint is considerable smaller than anything imported.

Anne said...

Yay, you finally made cornbread! We have a few friends coming over tomorrow for dinner, so I'm debating either making a mess of chili with some jalapeno cornbread, or just ordering take-out. And I can't think of anything that half a stick of butter didn't make better. Unfortunately our crappy Jewel probably doesn't have the right tomatoes, so I'll have to try it with some sale canned tomatoes.

Solidaritybitch said...

Hmm... Lisa, I am not trying to create a controversy about the tomatoes or Deb (I will always defer to her skills) but San Marzano tomatoes are grown within volcanic ash near Mount Vesuvius. It's true that the San Marzano brand is from the same seeds and has a smaller footprint, but it's still debatable if they are truly authentic.