Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Family, Friends and Forgotten Recipes: Part One

I've got another confession to make ... my cookbook collection is out of control. I'm a voracious reader in any case and that includes cookbooks. I read 'em like novels and collect them like they're going out of style. Though I know I may not have a chance to make all of the scrumptious delights therein, I throughly enjoy thinking about the various dishes and how I'd modify them to suit my tastes. Its a marvelous, and calorie-free, pass-time. Of course the consequence of having so many cookbooks is that I often forget what I do have and treasured recipes can go neglected.

When the husband and I were married one million years ago ... ok, more like 16 but who's counting? ... we invited some of my bro's friends to the wedding. (And, yes, I was married at age 10 if you're wondering. ~wink~) Happily, they came and a good time was had by all. One of them, a dear friend of the family - we'll call her T - gave me a copy of Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" and I have cherished it ever since. I'm not sure if T knew just how much I'd love this gift, or if it was a happy accident but the book has provided many a delightful hour for me - either in the kitchen or on the couch while traipsing through its culinary treasures. This book is an absolute classic and no cookbook library is complete without it.

This book was also burried under the surfeit of some dozens of other cookbooks on one of the groaning shelves in my kitchen. It was in serious danger of becoming one of the lost and forgotten. That is until another friend - I'm waving at you, VeeJay - reminded me of Marcella's simple and simply outstanding basic tomato sauce recipe last week. I very nearly ran to my kitchen, just to remind myself that "Essentials" was still there, and promptly made a mental note to revisit the recipe this week.

Though I ended up using this sauce to make a more complicated dish, eggplant parmesan, I urge you to try this stunning sauce and serve it however you like. It might be the easiest recipe I will ever post here ... except for that brown rice ... and you will not believe the taste!

Basic Tomato Sauce:

  • two 28 oz. cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes*
  • 1 whole onion, peeled and sliced in half, lengthwise, leaving the root end intact
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • a sprig of fresh basil
  • salt, to taste
Place all of the ingredients in a large, non-reactive sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook, uncovered, at a very low simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the onion, serve and enjoy! Its that easy. Really!

Or, at least my version is that easy. Go and buy the book and read how to make the same sauce with multiple variations, including using fresh tomatoes. I hope Marcella will forgive me for adapting the recipe by reducing the amount of butter, adding the olive oil and basil, and choosing to use the crushed rather than whole tomatoes. This is my way of making an easy sauce even easier. *The one caveat being that I insist you use the San Marzano tomatoes - the end result just won't taste the same if you use another brand.

As I said, I used this sauce to complete my new and improved South Beach Friendly Eggplant Parmesan ... and I will be posting that recipe tomorrow. Stay tuned!


Deb said...

Ah the cookboo collection only to be outdone by my recipes torn from all the cooking magazines I get hauled to my mailbox monthly. My life's work when I retire will be to organize, scan and cook all the recipes I have cut out or earmarked for sampling. I hope to have mastered this life on the beach by then so I can still cook the recipes while adapting them to be beach friendly.

Hope you find your way out from under the cookbook pile. We could probably jointly open a cooking library LOL


Sass said...

My husband is trying to convince me to throw away cookbooks. And I tell him, I don't make you throw away members of your family because they take up more space than I may prefer.

My mother adds to the chaos by subscribing me to every cooking magazine she can get her tomato stained fingers on. ;-)

Thanks for the smile! ;)

The Diva on a Diet said...

Deb, I've got heaps of torn-out recipes as well, just begging to be organized. Someday, someday.

Last year I finally decided to free up some space in my apartment by giving away my 15 year collection of Gourmet magazine. It was hard to part with them, but the recipes are all online now and I really needed the space on those bookshelves.

Sass, I've paired down my magazine subscriptions to only Bon Appetite right now. It kind of pained me to do that too, but I didn't even have time to read everything that was coming into my house.

Sounds like the three of us could open a fine library indeed!

Oh and LOL about family members taking up space, Sass!!

pixelgal said...

Alas, Deb, I am retired and continuing in my disorganized ways My lunch schedule is much too busy and then there's the fitness thing. I clip so many recipes and put them in creative places; kitchen drawers, bedroom drawers; pots and pans and I'm really in trouble if I'm having people over! Then the counters get cleaned and all is lost. One of my retirement goals was to go through the Cooking light magazines and try recipes that looked good. P.S. I've been retired for 7 years and have yet to use one! It's easier to go online.

The Diva on a Diet said...

LOL pixelgal ... funny, but not!

Has it been 7 years already?!? Yikes.