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Ask My Friend Maillard

Beat the Heat #2: Ode to a Rice Cooker

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You know that scene in a romantic comedy where one lead suddenly sees the other in a completely new way: “Oh wow, you’re not just my best friend, you’re totally my soulmate”? Get ready to feel that way about the $20 appliance you probably never think about, even if you are staring at it on the kitchen counter right now- the (extremely) understated electric rice cooker. Seriously, I think that the Toshiba Electric Company, or whoever translated the appliance's name (suihanki, in Japanese) so literally into English really missed the boat on naming this thing. I know that amazing-cheap-steamer-cooker-wonder is a bit lengthy from a marketing standpoint. I guess that’s why I cook, not name products. Let’s just make a quick edit to rice creative cooker, and move on.

 

 

The question: "It’s too hot to contemplate baking or boiling; how can I make a complete meal without touching a knob/button on my stove or oven? Seriously. I don’t even want to boil water for noodles."

The answer:

As you may have guessed from the intro/rant above the answer is get out your rice creative cooker!

[If you don’t have one, honestly, you should go get one immediately. The basic models are $20-40, nearly indestructible and better at making rice than any non sushi chef human can on the stovetop. Also, make sure it comes with a steamer insert that sits on top. Are you back from buying one? Okay good]

Beyond the hassle-free cooking of rice... this is an abridged list of things you can and should create in the body of your rice cooker:

  • oatmeal
  • mac n cheese
  • spice cakes
  • frittatas
  • poached pears (or other fruit)
  • soup
  • boneless chicken (yes, really.)
  • lentils/dal

And in the steamer insert you can steam, well anything that’s good steamed, including but not limited to:

  • vegetables
  • seafood
  • dumplings
  • tamales
  • hot dogs/sausages

Plus as long as you are keeping an eye on the appliance, and know roughly how long both should be cooking, you can cook one thing in the body while steaming an accompaniment above. [I predict that some readers may start using their rice creative cookers so much after trying the following meals that it becomes one of those appliances that never gets put away in the cupboard.]

 

The One Pot Dinner Recipe: Arroz con Pollo (or variations thereof)

A one pot classic that can be infinitely seasoned. Whether you make it on the stove, in the oven, in a slow cooker, or today’s focus: the rice cooker, this is a consummate classic sure to please everyone.

The advantage of using a rice cooker over a slow cooker in the summer is beautiful produce. In the summer you don’t want to overcook your beautiful delicate tomatoes, zucchini, corn, etc. so a quicker cooking appliance is preferable. In the winter, you’re probably using frozen or canned veggies that don’t have much structural integrity to retain so they are just fine in the slow cooker.


The ingredients:

Pictured are 2 cups brown rice, 1lb turkey cutlets cut into bite sized pieces, torn kale, an onion, grated garlic and ginger, jalapeno and sweet wax peppers, tomatoes, bay leaves, and some chipotles in adobo sauce. The directions below will work with any amount/variety of ingredients your  family likes with poultry and grains.

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What to do:

Place the rice in the cooker and fill with broth or water to the corresponding number line on the interior of the bowl, whole grains will need slightly more moisture, for the brown rice I added an extra half cup of water. Add your choice of poultry, aromatics and any other hearty vegetables or flavoring agents. Put on the lid and flip switch to cook. When the switch adjusts itself to warm, check that the rice is cooked through and the meat is firm, stir in any frozen or delicate veggies, I added my diced tomatoes here, stir to incorporate, and let sit on warm 5-10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

 


For Kids/College Students: Rice Cooker Mac ‘n’ Cheese (with veggies and hot dogs/sausage)

This is a great alternative to bringing potato or pasta salad for a cookout and also the perfect way to feed little kids without turning on the stove.

The ingredients:

Pictured are a box of small shells, 2 cups chicken stock, ½ cup heavy cream, ½ cup water, lots of grated cheese, ¼ cup cream cheese, and ⅓ cup pesto. The general ratio for any good mac ‘n’ cheese in the rice cooker is 1 cup of liquid per 2 cups small shape noodles with 1 cup dairy product and 2 or more cups grated cheese for any amount of noodles over 2 cups, then season to taste.
For a complete meal add the steamer insert with some cauliflower florets and hot dogs or sausage.

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What to do:

Place the noodles and liquid in the rice cooker and switch to cook. When the switch goes to warm, add the rest of the ingredients, stir together and either let sit on warm for 15 mins or switch to cook again. Stir again and let sit for at least 5 minutes unplugged, it can take awhile for the sauce to thicken using this method. If you are steaming fresh vegetables and/or sausage put them in the steamer insert at the beginning with the noodles and water. If steaming frozen veggies and/or hot dogs steam for 2-5 mins after adding the dairy and seasoning (you will need to switch to cook  for that step).

 

Bonus points!

Once you’ve mastered pasta and rice based meals, try out this amazing sounding carrot cake recipe (it does have some stovetop steps, but candied carrot topping might be worth it!).
http://www.shinshine.com/my-blog/2012/04/rc-carrot-cake-updated.html

 


Please share any rice creative cooker creations of your own in the comments, and don’t forget to send in any questions you have.
 

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Three Tips for Terri

"Food that is a chore is food that will not make you feel better no matter how healthful or virtuous it may be otherwise."

THE QUESTION: "How do I integrate enough variety to keep my whole family happy (including two kids) on a vegan and gluten-free diet?"

Even without knowing what this doctor said about avocados, the following is a powerful question for someone [me] who trys to solve clients' problems through food.

I saw this tweet when I got home from an initial meeting with Terri, author of the Empowering Lives blog here on FredParent; we were meeting because she recently switched, on suggestion from her doctor, to a vegan diet. One of her sons also has a gluten sensitivity so she was looking for advice on moving her whole household to a gluten-free-vegan meal plan. Coming up with family specific meal plans (and then cooking them in your kitchen) is the heart of my buisness, so I jumped at the chance to help Terri. For a client, my basic dinner plan is to cook two servings per family member of four different meals, but to give Terri ideas for the whole day I varied this to two serrvings each of three meals for the whole family and two breakfast/lunch/snack items. 

In general, I have no problem coming up with vegan meal plans, but I’m the kind of person who saw a tshirt with the slogan ‘Gluten is my co-pilot’ then proceeded to laugh for five minutes interspersed with shouts of “I want one!”. But I powered through the planner's/writer's block and found that the more I focused on the non-animal-product sources of protein the easier I found eliminating gluten from my planning for Terri and her family. Once I stopped thinking about how great a crusty bread is with eggplant and tomatoes this time of year, and the options for their family came flooding in. I set up several dishes to make for them that were vegan, gluten-free, and ideas that (I hope) are easy for them to experiment with and create variations.

Variety and diversity are key: both for getting all the nutrients human bodies need and to make it easy to keep to the rules of the diet. And after looking at the meal plan I designed, I came up with these three general rules for maintaining variety on a vegan diet (with gluten exceptions in parentheses) expanded/explained below:

  1. Mix all the grains, nuts, seeds, and greens. Always. (not barley, wheatberries or bulgur.)
  2. Liquids are an opportunity for increased flavor, especially umami. (not most soy and worcestershire sauces, which contain barley.)
  3. Have fun and treat yourself (not with freshly baked bread).

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Here's the menu of dishes I made for Terri's family and a collage her niece made of the afternoon I spent cooking for them:

  • oats and seeds granola brittle
  • buckwheat, farro, walnut, & orange zest salad
  • roasted tomato & creamy stock noodle bake
  • lentil-brown rice burgers/balls with lettuce cups & miso-carrot dressing
  • quinoa and summer squash stuffed red peppers (and the same filling in baked taco cups)


 

 


Grains, Nuts, Seeds and Greens.

The variety of things that will be improved by mixing these four things together, or a subset of three, is astonishing. A meal of brown rice topped with kale and garlic sauteed in olive oil with some fruit as desert (perfectly respectable if a little boring) becomes a salad of farro, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, cashews, dried cranberries, and kale with your favorite fresh herbs, drizzled with avocado oil and some flakey sea salt. This could be a meal unto itself or serve a small scoop on the side of broiled cauliflower ‘steaks’. Much more exciting. And, more importantly, much more complete in the kinds and amount of proteins, vitamins and minerals. Few believe how energized they could be with a protein packed breakfast/snack of homemade granola bars made with oats, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds held together with honey, brown sugar and oil. But once you try it you will go crazy individualizing each batch: add curry powder, swap in pecans for the almonds, or spread with orange marmalade.

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The plate photographed to the left is a dinner I made for myself with what was in the fridge (disclaimer: it's not vegan; I added mozzarella). The buckwheat groats/kasha (cooked in miso, see the liquids tip below), pea shoots, sprouts and avocado were all just there. It was late and I was only feeding myself so I combined what was around haphazardly then garnished with some oil, smoked sea salt, seasame seeds and turkish red pepper flakes; voila, a decadent dinner for one (see the having fun tip below). It may have been confused about whether it wanted to be a Turkish or Japanese dish but it was definately delish.   

Grocery stores are all about strategy for both the company and the shopper. The easiest way to follow any of the advice in this post is to make sure your pantry and fridge are set up to make these kinds of meals quickly and also intuitive to put together, without also picking up impulse buys. Make sure you get a variety of whole grains and beans in addition to nuts and seeds (raw and unsalted, in case you want to candy or blend them) when you are at the grocery store. I know beans aren’t actually listed in the tip, that’s because I find they take over the flavor of the kinds of salads described above, but they are good for making up dips and spreads, slow cooking with onions down to a caramelized treat of a side dish, or as the base for an easy filling for corn tortillas The day before your work week begins, hydrate several servings of all of your grains and beans.[Pro Tip: before adding water to hydrate grains toast them in the pot/pan in some oil, this gives them a deeper flavor and they will be less likely to turn into a concrete brick in your fridge after two days.] Then you can mix and match as the mood strikes you each day. Combine two of your grains with one seed, onion, garlic, herbs and an egg replacement/ flax seed meal soaked in water/tapioca and shape into ‘meatballs’/burger patties (appologies for all of the "/" but hopefully it emphasises the versitility of this advice). 

 


Liquids are your key to adding variety through flavor.

This tip developed out from something Terri told me she already did to help her sons adjust to the new diet; she created a sweet and creamy sauce for gluten-free pasta with coconut milk and corn starch. This is one of the two classic thickening techniques in sauce making (my favorite subject!). To make a thin liquid into a sauce put the liquid in a saucepan and warm it, create a slurry of cornstarch and a little more liquid of your choice [pro tip: dry white wine adds a brightness to the finished dish] and add it to the base liquid, bring to a boil, let boil for one minute, then remove from the heat and serve. The base could be coconut milk like Terri used, vegetable stock (watch out for sodium levels if you get a store bought stock), tomato paste dissolved in water, vegetable or fruit juice (preferably from a juicer or blender, again because of sodium and sugar levels in store bought options), or my favorite fast mushroom stock. Steep a variety of dried mushrooms in boiling water for a half hour or so, strain the mushroom pieces out or blend them into the water they were steeped in for a stronger flavor, thicken as described above with cornstarch and any wine you have around the house, and voila! you have vegan gravy.

For those ‘meatballs’ from tip #1, get/make some carrot juice thin with water and whisk in tomato paste, add some vinegar, curry/chili powder, cumin and a dash of tamari sauce (a kind of soy sauce made without barley and therefore gluten-free), thicken and you have a sweet, sour, spicy sauce to spoon over your little grain balls.

Vinaigrettes are the other liquid you should absolutely be in love with if you are trying to keep to a vegan diet. They can be varied even more than the thicker warm sauce above because you can change out all three components: oil, acid, and seasoning. Each vegetable, fruit and nut oil has its own character and can be fun to play with, but for me the main event is the acid. Champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, rice vinegar, take your pick; chances are I love it. Acidity plays an important role in the digestion of sugars, in that it makes digestion faster and easier, so having acidity in your meals will help you know when you are full faster. For a Mediterranean flavor use olive oil, champagne and white balsamic vinegars with dijon mustard and garlic. For a Japanese flair use sesame oil, unseasoned rice vinegar, white miso paste (darker ones likely have gluten) ginger and sesame seeds. If you buy some ball jars then you won't even have to worry about perfecting any emulsification techniques, just vigorously shake right before you want to top your grains or veggies or fruit or beans and enjoy.

And the simplest flavor boost liquid can give? Use stock or other flavorful liquid instead of, or in additition to, water when hydrating grains and noodles. 

 


Have fun!

Food that is a chore is food that will not make you feel better no matter how healthful or virtuous it may be otherwise. Stress from not knowing what or how to cook and dissatisfaction from a lack of flavor are the feelings that lead people on restrictive diets to give up or take ‘cheat days’. Food, culture and fun are so ingrained and intertwined today that if you think of your food as ‘unfun’ you will begin to think of yourself as ‘unfun’. Remember, fat, salt, and sugar are all, in and of themselves, vegan and an item of vegan food can conceivably be every bit as unhealthy as a hot-dog-stuffed-crust pizza. Okay maybe not EVERY bit, but still my point being that vegan comfort food exists.

My brother’s girlfriend recently told me about her county fair gold ribbon-winning vegan chocolate cake; she didn’t label it as vegan but she knew it had won because it had more chocolate, more fat and more sugar than her competitors. Similarly, when Terri's sons saw me shaping the corn tortillas into taco cups on the reverse side of muffin tins they got very excited. The novelty that it was possible to make their own taco bowls totally overshadowed the fact that I was their to help with a weird diet regimen (it probably didn't hurt that when they got home from school there was a sweet nutty scent in the air from the granola baking). 

You don’t need to go overboard thinking of ridiculous things to eat of course. Everything in moderation. Eat seasonally; eating a perfectly ripe piece of fruit can be the most decadent feeling. But also there are some truly good pre-made vegan products, like mayonnaises, in grocery stores now. Stir a good spoonful of that in with chickpeas, lentils, mashed avocado and chopped cilantro, basil and mint topped with candied nuts and I promise you won’t feel like your lunch is anything less than luxurious.
 

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Beat the Heat #1: Why Apple Pie?

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How can you enjoy the kitchen in the summer without making your house unbearably hot and/or your A/C shift into overdrive? This is the first in a series of posts designed to answer that question! This week: an oven-free dessert idea for the Fourth of July (and all summer long). Bonus: it doubles as a fun art project if you’ve got bored kids in the house, or unexpected serving vessel for a dinner party with hard to impress guests! The only downside to this project is that it’s not the best idea for picnics, especially in the kind of heat the Fredericksburg area has been seeing the past couple of weeks, unless you really enjoy trying to wash out melted chocolate and candy stains.

 

THE QUESTION: “How can I have a festive and homemade July 4th without heating up the whole house to bake an apple pie?”

 

The Answer:

To solve this problem I say ditch the pie and focus on the ‘a la mode’. The questionee is completely right, no one feels like eating pie when said pie has turned their house into a sauna. And besides apples aren’t seasonal at this time of the year so no apple pie will be as good as it is in the fall, and the cherries I’ve been getting from the farmer’s market the past week are best eaten on the walk home from Hurkamp, not enrobed by butter and flour. And honestly, I’ve never understood the whole summer-apple-pie-celebration thing except from a marketing/nostalgia standpoint anyway...so say it out loud with me, “Why apple pie!?”.

 

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Back to the ice cream, and my heretofore mysterious project, why not spend a day on making beautiful candy bowls for ice cream instead of icing your counter just to knead pie crust? I had a concept for making white chocolate dishes to serve flourless chocolate cake on in a catering proposal this past winter (the cake usually has a bourbon white chocolate frosting; this family was a huge fan of chocolate but hated bourbon). Unfortunately, the clients decided to go a different direction to celebrate their mom’s birthday so I didn’t get to bring that to fruition. 

I know I’m not the only person who’s ever thought of candy bowls or even using balloons to mold round objects, but I think both are really fun. Basically all you need are balloons and melting candy wafers, plus some sprinkles, chopped nuts or crushed pretzels if you want to get crazy (and sturdy).

 

 

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The technique:

  • Prepare your balloons and surface. Place wax paper on your countertop or, even better, a sheet pan, this will be your drying surface. Blow up the number of balloons for how many dishes you will need (plus an additional 2-4, sometimes the candy does not dry correctly or shatters when the balloon is popped) and coat them with a thin layer of coooking spray or neutral oil (if there is too much oil/spray it will drip down onto your bowl while the candy is drying).
  • Prepare a plate or bowl with sprinkles, crushed pretzels, crushed candy, crushed nuts, potato chip crumbs, etc. These add-ons will make your bowl sturdier so while they are not neccessary, I highly reccommend a topping.
  • Melt candy wafers in the microwave according to the directions on the package.
  • Dip balloon into the melted candy/chocolate.
  • If doing multiple colors/layers, let dry at least 30 mins or preferably 1 hour in a cool, unhumid spot (This means the fridge if you live in VA and have no or little A/C).
  • After your last layer of candy/chocolate, immediately dip each side into your crushed; if you are only using one coat of melted candy the topping will be very important (do not spin the balloon in the topping, this will just smear the melted candy all over your topping plate).
  • Allow to harden for at least an hour.
  • Pop the balloon with as sharp and narrow an object as you can (I used a tiny craft needle); the larger the dispurtion of the balloons surface, the more likely it is that the popping will shatter your bowls.
  • Gently remove the balloon anywhere that it is stuck to the bowl. 
  • Keep in a cool, dry place or the fridge until you are ready  to use them!

For a Fourth of July flair get red, white and blue colors of melting wafers and star shaped sprinkles or toasted coconut (or both!). Dip the balloon twice, first into the white color then after drying into the blue and immediately press the star shapped sprinkles onto at least part of the blue outter layer. After popping and removing the balloo,n paint red stripes on the inside white surface of the bowls. Voila, a patriotic cup for some post-fireworks ice cream sundaes!

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Lessons I learned:

  1. Give yourself way more room than you think you need. This goes for counter space AND the size of the bowl you use to melt the candy wafers. I couldn’t even fit some of the balloons into the smaller bowl with the white wafers.
  2. Make wider shapes than you think you might want. My narrow 'soup bowl' type experiments fell in on themselves when the balloon was popped. This goes double for trying complicated scalloped edges.
  3. When removing the balloon, gently hold the bowl and balloon in place in the center of the base and gently pull the balloon away from the edges until ony the center is still attached. You are less likely to chip pieces off of the edges this way.
  4. Only do one color at a time, I made a crazy mess trying to do both at once (and it led to my using smaller bowls than I should have because I wanted to put them both in the microwave at once, see lesson #1) patience is key.
  5. To reiterate, patience is key!

 

Have fun. And bonus points if you make your own ice cream to put into your beautiful, edible, bowls.

 

Don't forget, if you have any questions about how to eat well without heating up the house, or anything else food-related, send them to me on Facebook, Twitter, or via email to myfriendmaillard (at) gmail.com.

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The Beater Batter

This Father’s Day don't be afraid to lick the batter from the beater.

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In the time since I was a kid (and that’s not long ago AT ALL) concerns about bacteria and food safety have removed much of the fun from being a kid in the kitchen. Heaven forbid you might help shape meatballs at four: you might put your hands in your mouth without washing them first! The aversion to raw cookie dough is the biggest of these crimes by health. The dough gets wasted when you wash it off of utensils and hands. And besides what else are you going to do for the 12 minutes the cookies are baking!? From a very young age I have loved eating cookie dough off the mixing beater; as evidenced by this picture of my father and me. And (don’t arrest us) my family usually has cookie dough balls, raw, in the freezer, because you never know when you might want a freshly baked cookie or just to gnaw on a frozen dough ball like you are a teething toddler (though hopefully with less drool).

So if you are looking for something to do this Father’s day last minute. Or to put it another way, if you were to Ask My Friend Maillard what you should do relating to food, hands down my answer is bake cookies together; especially if the fathers in your life are anything like mine, who care not at all about things (least of all ties or grilling accoutrement). A picture/vine/stain from baking together will last a lot longer than today’s hot gadget and finding the perfect cookie for his taste takes more individualized thought.

Earlier today I mailed out a batch of mocha cookie bars to my dad. Sadly, without getting any pictures of the actual cookie. My dad LOVES Starbucks’ mochas. He can’t have them as often, or as large, anymore for medical reasons but I chose to make mocha flavored cookies to pay homage to this taste-love. I made a basic oatmeal cookie dough with pecans, just for some crunch and fun, pressing most of it into an 11x8 inch glass pan while reserving some for topping. Then on top of that was a melted mixture of chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and Starbucks italian roast VIA (their instant coffee). The combination of condensed milk and melted chocolate is a feature of his all time favorite dessert. It was all topped with crumbles of the reserved cookie dough as well as chocolate covered espresso beans. YUM.

And there's my advice, even though you didn't ask for it. Poke around the internet for cookies relating to your dad’s/husband’s interest and make a happy and yummy Father’s Day in the kitchen. Eat the batter raw (and yes there are lots of good egg-free cookie recipies if you’re worried about salmonella). Measure wrong. Make a mess. Have fun.

 

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There's Something About Spaghetti: Part 2

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Last week I shared some ways to make healthful choices at the grocery store when shopping for a spaghetti dinner. This time I share two of my favorite tomato sauces and tips on how to make them “one-pot meals”.

 

First, a couple of ingredient notes:

  • The shopping tips from last week also apply to the most important ingredient shopping for the first recipe, the canned/boxed tomatoes you choose. Always look at the ingredient lists. Some brands add salt and sugar to their processed tomatoes and most treat the tomato pieces with citric or other acids. Treating them with acid helps the tomato pieces hold their shape and color so that they look pretty coming out of the can; holding their shape means that they will not break down into a thick sauce that coats your noodle of choice. I buy the Pomi brand diced tomatoes because they have exactly one ingredient: tomatoes. If you can’t find them the next best thing is to get canned tomatoes that are pureed instead of diced and have little or no added salt.

  • I almost always use shallots, but they are not mandatory. This time of year I might sub in some local red spring onion, but you could carry on as if they aren’t in the recipe at all and it will still be yummy. You may need to add a tablespoon of sugar if your tomatoes are especially astringent. Or you can substitute any other kind of onion or even another aromatic like ginger.

  • I’m not actually a big fan  of the actual spaghetti noodle shape/diameter itself, so in the pictures you'll see I made the first sauce with bucatini and then cavatappi for the second. You may need a little extra water to thin the sauces enough to  stick onto spaghetti if that is your noodle shape of choice.  

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My Anyday Tomato Sauce:

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Saute diced or grated garlic and sliced shallots in a tablespoon or two of oil until the shallots are soft then add in a pinch of salt. The amount of shallots and garlic will depend on your taste and the length of time you have to simmer the sauce. If you have less time cut down on the garlic, if you prefer sweeter sauces use many shallots, say a third of a cup sliced, and saute until they start to take on a golden color.

Add a bundle of fresh herbs tied together with cooking twine or other untreated cotton string. The number and variety of herbs is all up to you. I have a lot of herbs in my backyard at the moment so there’s rosemary, thyme, pineapple sage, and parsley all in the bundle pictured. Delicate herbs like basil do not work well for simmering because they give up their aromatic compounds almost immediately and then get bitter. If you like basil save it for garnish.

Pour your tomatoes on top. Stir gently in small circles to incorporate the shallots without tearing the bundle of herbs apart.

Simmer for at least 20 minutes- the time it will take you to bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles- or up to an hour. The flavor will intensify the longer you simmer. If it gets too thick stir in some water. When you put the noodles into their cooking water, remove the herb bundle and stir in a tablespoon or two of red wine or balsamic vinegar. 

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Reserve some of the noodle’s cooking liquid either by dipping a measuring cup into the still boiling pot or by placing a glass measuring cup under your colander in the sink. The starch in the cooking water will help the sauce stick to your noodles and give a silky texture to the sauce itself.

Return the noodle pot to the stove and brown some sausage in the bottom if you want to have meat incorporated in the dish. Add half of the noodles, half of the sauce, fresh ground pepper or red pepper flakes and about ⅓ cup cooking liquid and toss together. Taste a noodle with the sauce to determine if you need to add more salt or any other seasonings, if it needs anything it will be salt, pepper, sugar or lemon juice/vinegar, but not too much of any of those things. Add the rest of the noodles and sauce then toss again. Add more cooking liquid if the sauce is too thick. Garnish with cheese and/or fresh herbs. The garnishes in the picture are ricotta, parmesan and basil.

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Other notes on the recipe:

  • As with last week, adding more veggies is always good. Add any roasted or blanched vegetable or green to the pot when you are mixing it all together. Capers or kalamata olives are also good for adding a bright briny-ness.
  • You can make this a “one-pot meal” recipe and/or avoid tomato splattering all over your kitchen. Make the pasta first, shoot for the pasta to be just barely underdone because you will finish cooking it in the sauce. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking liquid and massage the noodles with olive oil in the colander so that they do not fuse into a solid block while you are making the sauce. If you are including meat then brown it in the pot, saute the shallots and garlic with the meat and they will not need extra oil. If you are not including meat saute as described above. Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. (Pro tip: Any pot deep enough to cook noodles in will keep your kitchen free of splatter so long as you keep an eye on it.) Add fresh herbs. Turn the heat down to low and slowly add the noodles to the sauce by the tongfull/spoonfull with a splash of the cooking liquid each time. When they are all in the pot again return the heat to medium for approximately 3 minutes to reheat the noodles and meld everything together.

  

My 'Sauce-less' Tomato Sauce: AMFM_rostedcutlengthwise.JPG

The widespread availability of quality hothouse grape/cherry tomatoes gives the home cook more options than dumping canned or boxed tomatoes from who knows when and trying to add flavor back into them.

Preheat your oven to 400. Line a cookie sheet or oven pan with aluminum foil and turn the edges of the foil up at least ½ inch crimping them at the corners. The ideal is to be able to easily dump all the tomato juices onto the noodles and not need to scrub the pans.

Slice several pints of grape/cherry tomatoes in half (if they are large quarter them, but be sure to do so lengthwise so they will be able to cling to the noodles in the end). Place them in a bowl and gently stir in a tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of one lemon, salt, and optionally ground spices like a dash of nutmeg, and three dashes each of ground mustard, turmeric and paprika. Smoked paprika is especially good if you have some around since the ground spices are mostly lending an aromatic component to the dish.

Pour the tomatoes onto the foil prepared pan, spread into an even layer and put in the oven. Roast for 25-40 minutes. It will depend on your oven, the pan, and how many tomatoes you ended up having how long it takes. You will know they are done when they look almost dehydrated and the juices they released are just starting to burn on the foil. The oven has done all of the "sauce - making" work for you!

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While the tomatoes are roasting bring water to a boil and cook your desired noodles. A fatter shape like linguini or fettuccine will give you more surface area for tomato bits to attach themselves to.

If you are into meat, saute some small cubes of pancetta or cut 4 slices of bacon into strips the short way (these strips are called lardons). When they have crisped put them aside on a plate lined with paper towels. Otherwise saute some onions or shallots.

Chop some fresh herbs and dice some garlic or throw together anything you have in the fridge. Pictured here I've put in spinach and baby turnips from my CSA (the noodles are under everything else there. Toss everything together. The tomatoes and their carmelized juices together with some of the noodle cooking liquid should suspend the noodles and extras to create a luxurious sweet sauce that yyou have to do practically nothing for. To garnish drizzle with balsamic vinegar and/or top with a grated or crumbly cheese.

 

One last thought:

IF tomatoes are in season (AKA not full-sized hot house tomatoes, they won't have the right texture for this). Fresh heirloom tomatoes grated (like cheese) into the pot of cooked noodles are basically all you need. They can be enhanced by melting a couple tablespoons of butter with ground mustard and red pepper flakes until fragrant and drizzling on top with fresh chopped basil and balsamic vinegar. For more nutrition add several handfuls of baby arugula to the pot of noodles in the last minute or two of cooking stir to combine throughout the pot then drain like normal.


 

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About Joanna

blogger joanna2


I am a young entrepreneur who loves to solve problems; from the daily crossword to a client's cooking conundrum. Passion for soccer, architecture, travel, and experimenting with cooking techniques (mostly) define my life. My company, My Friend Maillard, is a personal chef service designed to help clients who don't have the time or inclination to cook at home. I approached Fredericksburg Parent to host this blog so I could also help local families find answers for their seemingly intractable food and cooking related problems.

Did your teenager just decide to go vegan? Do you want to know why your cakes always collapse in the center? Do you want to know how to get chicken skin really crispy? Just Ask My Friend Maillard. Make your queries as specific or as weird as you like and submit them anytime through Twitter, on Facebook, or via email to myfriendmaillard (at) gmail.com. Can't wait to hear from you!

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