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Posts Tagged ‘Tomatoes’

‘Mater Sauce with Meats

My sister is a good cook, but she generally doesn’t make much meat.  Whenever she comes over for dinner, or I offer to cook at her house her immediate request is for “meats!”  Especially when she was pregnant, all she wanted was meat.  Preferably meat cooked by me or Mister.  So when I spent a weekend at her house late in her pregnancy stocking up her freezer, of course one of her first requests (besides empanadas) was Meats!

I wanted to make something that would work as a family dinners, but would also be a reasonable quick meal for her when her husband wasn’t home.  Lil’ Sis isn’t leftover adverse, and she LOOOVES noodles, so spaghetti sauce seemed like the obvious  choice (with meat, of course).  This recipe makes a ton of sauce.  It’s definitely a simmer all day kind of recipe, but it doesn’t require much baby sitting, and at the end of the day you’re rewarded with  freezer full of  delicious hearty meals for nights where you can’t be bothered to do anything besides boil some noodles.  (And maybe throw together some salad. Balanced meals are your friend.)

‘Mater Sauce with Meats

Makes about 10 cups of sauce.

  • A #10 can of crushed tomatoes (or 4 regular big cans)
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 2 mild Italian sausages, casing removed
  • 2 diced medium yellow onions
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1.5 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan

In a large pot (~8 qts), over medium high heat, crumble the ground beef and sausage and brown well.  It doesn’t have to be fully cooked, but get lots of browned surfaces on there.  Remove the meat and set aside.  Pour out the  grease, leaving 1-2 Tbsp in the pot.

Saute the onion and garlic in the meat grease until softened and starting to brown.

Sprinkle in the salt, peppers, and herbs and mix well.  Pour in the red wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to dissolve all the brown meaty goodness.  Let cook till the pot is nearly dry again.  Add the meat back in.

Carefully, because it will want to splatter all over the place, pour in the crushed tomatoes.  If for some reason you don’t get a kick out of buying the giant cans like I do, you can feel free to use 3-4 normal sized (i.e. 28 oz) cans.  But seriously how fun it is to have a can this big?

Regular sized diced tomato can provided for size reference only.  Also outing myself for using totally unfancy canned tomato products.

Stir well, bring to a simmer and let it just bubble away over low heat for several hours.  I think ours was going for about 6 hours.  It will darken in color and reduce slightly.  Also it will look like the surface of a bubbling pool of magma.

Add the grated Parmesan and mix in well.  Let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes and taste to adjust seasoning if needed.

Remove from heat and let it cool down a bit and then package for the freezer.

(if you want to get an A in food safety, use an ice bath to cool it quickly)

I like to use gallon ziplock freezer bags, and lay them flat to freeze.  They stack  neatly  and thaw much faster than a big block of sauce.  I put about 2.5 cups of sauce in each bag, squeeze out the air and then seal them up and lay them on a cookie sheet to freeze.  (insurance in case of leaks)

Alternately – cook up about 5 pounds of pasta and proceed to feed a small army.

Note: If you don’t have all day for simmering, add a small can of tomato paste before the red wine.  Let it cook for a minute or two before adding the red wine and then proceed as written.  You can reduce the simmering time to ~2 hours.

mmm…saucy.

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I received a delightful email a couple of weeks ago from my friend Lindsey.   She has a CSA share, which she has been blogging faithfully over at Our Share of the Harvest.   She was going to be out of town for a week and asked if I wanted to be her veggie stand-in.  I was thrilled, and of course I said yes.  So following her directions I drove to the farm on Wednesday after work, pulled up to a barn and found myself a lovely bin of veggies with her name on it!   Check out her blog here for a rundown of my haul.

It also happened that the following Sunday both Lindsey and I would be attending a baby shower for a friend of ours.  Perfect timing to make a baby shower dish starring some of my borrowed veggie bounty!  Looking at the haul, the obvious answer was to make something featuring these beautiful cherry tomatoes.

Seriously, how gorgeous are they?  Glowing red and yellow gems.  And they had the flavor to match their good looks.  Firm, but totally ripe, with a delicious sweet pop of tomato flavor.  Tastes like pure summer.   (also check out the purple basil on the bottom of that picture.  They made an appearance at the party as well)

I wanted to really show them off, and I decided a tart would be the best showcase.  Off to Epicurous I went, and came across a Tomato-Goat Cheese tart that looked perfect.  I made some slight changes, mostly due to necessity, but if (when) I make it again I think I’d make another couple of adjustments.  The cherry tomatoes are so sweet that they need a little bit of help standing up to the rich custard.  I think I’d cut back on the goat cheese a bit, and increase the basil significantly.  And then maybe either add a dollop of Dijon mustard to the custard or maybe drizzle a bit of reduced balsamic vinegar over the top to serve.  Some crumbled bacon would also be an excellent addition.  (Mister tested that one out with the leftovers and gave it a thumbs up)  Add a side salad and this would be great for a lunch or brunch dish, or a light summer dinner.

Cherry Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart adapted from Epicurious.com
For crust:

  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp ice water
  • raw rice for weighting crust (or pie weights if you’re fancy)

For filling:

  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves  (this is all I had in that little bunch of purple basil.  I’ll do at least 1/2 cup when I make this again)
  • 7 ounces mild soft goat cheese, softened
  • 3/4 stick (6 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup cream (or just use a total of 1/2 cup sour cream as the original recipe calls for.  I only had 1/4 cup so I improvised.  It worked)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes  (you might be able to sub in slices of regular tomatoes.  I haven’t tried it, but if you do let me know how it goes)

Optional add-ins worth trying:

  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4-1/3 cup crumbled crisp bacon
  • reduced balsamic vinegar

Making the crust:

I make all my pie and tart crusts in the food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, a pastry cutter, two butter knives or your hands are all valid options.   You just need to somehow smush the butter into little chunks combined with the dry ingredients quickly so the butter doesn’t get a chance to melt.

Dump the dry ingredients into the FP and give it a quick pulse to combine.  Add the butter (which should be as cold as possible without being frozen) and pulse it until it is a mix of coarse crumbs and pea sized chunks.   Add the water and pulse until it will hold together when you pinch it.  You might need to add more water…take it one tsp at a time if you do, and only pulse till just combined.   Note: the water should be actual ice water, not cold tap water.

Dump the dough (which will still be crumbly) out into your tart pan and press into the sides and bottom in an even layer.  I used a 11″ round pan, but a 10″ would also work, or a rectangular pan as called for in the original.  When I make it again I want to use my 4″ mini-tart pans, and I think the full recipe will make about 6 of them.  Don’t worry if it’s not even at the top, this crust is pretty rustic with the cornmeal, so it doesn’t need to be perfect.  Stick it in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes.

While it’s chilling preheat the oven to 375.

Carefully line the dough with tin foil and fill with rice or pie weights.  Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are dry and firm and then carefully remove the rice and tin foil and cook for another 5-8 minutes until the center is done but not browned.

Set the crust aside to cool.

Filling:

Chop your basil.  Wisk everything together, and season to taste with salt and pepper.   If you want to try the mustard add-in it would go in now.

Pour the filling into the crust.

Halve the tomatoes and arrange cut side up all over custard, lightly pressing them in.  If you want to try adding crumbled bacon I’d sprinkle it over the top before adding the tomatoes.

Bake the tart at 375 degrees F. for about 25 minutes, or until the filling is just set (i.e. not jiggly in the middle.)   Let cool on a wire rack and then remove the sides of the tart pan and dig in.  It slices pretty neatly, but the crust is not terribly sturdy so a careful transfer from pan to plate is needed.

As a serving suggestion try drizzling a couple of drops of reduced balsamic vinegar over the finished tart and let me know how that tastes.  I was going to try this myself, but somebody ate all the leftovers before I could get a chance.

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