Late last fall, I threw all the frozen Roma tomatoes from my garden in a couple of big pots, cooked them down, left their skins intact (more on that later) and then filled some big mason jars with the resulting glob.
The Sunday before last, I finally got around to making sauce. Already having the cooked tomatoes helped cut the time I spent in the kitchen considerably. I thawed the frozen jars, plopped the contents into two big pots and did my thing.
One of the things about making tomato sauce is that you never know just how acidic the results will be. Tomatoes differ from year to year, I've found.
There have been times I made sauce that I could really taste the bite; other times when it was quite mild. I've always added sugar to my sauce, so I've learned to adjust ingredients accordingly to sort of smooth out the flavor.
More than a decade ago, I switched from adding granulated sugar to brown sugar, which I think adds a more complex and smoother sweetness to the sauce.
I also very gently cook diced green peppers and onions in a saute pan with the lid on until the onions are soft. (The peppers will soften up more in the sauce.) Then, I toss in a handful of crushed garlic cloves in the pan for just a couple more minutes. All of it goes into the pots with the sauce. (I know, I could have done the sauteing in the big pot before I put the tomatoes in, but I always forget.)
I mention the sauteing part because about a week ago, I was reading a discussion about Italian tomatoes at Chowhound.com. Someone from St. Louis who lived on The Hill and had been making a handed-down red sauce recipe for several decades mentioned making a soffritto, which is adding a combination of sauteed diced onion, pepper and celery to sauce as a way to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
"Diced carrots added to the soffritto will do the trick instead of adding sugar," he also said.
So, it's good to know I've been making a soffritto (and didn't know it). When sauce-making time comes around again, I will forgoe the brown sugar and try diced carrots.
About leaving the skins on home-grown tomatoes: I used to peel mine before cooking, until a chef told me that a great deal of flavor is in the skin. He suggested I cook my tomatoes down in the sauce and whatever skins are obviously left in the pot, just pick them out! So, that's what I do. (Cuts down on prep work, for sure.)
I like some heat in my food, and horseradish is known around the world as a fine way to make it!
I came across this recipe last week and thought it should be shared.
Sweet and Spicy Horseradish Sauce
5-ounce jar prepared horseradish, drained
1 cup pepper jelly
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the horseradish, pepper jelly, vinegar and pepper in a bowl and whisk until well blended. This sauce can be made 4 to 5 days in advance. It's delicious on sandwiches and most pork and lamb dishes.
Flank steak is lean and very flavorful, but not particularly tender. It is best served cut into thin strips. This recipe is from Newsday food writer Marge Perry.
FLANK STEAK FAJITAS
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound flank steak
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
2 minced garlic cloves
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup bottled salsa
4 flour tortillas
1. Sprinkle the chili powder, and salt evenly over the entire surface of the flank steak; pat it lightly to adhere the seasoning to the meat.
2. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large, nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium high. Add the steak, and cook 5-6 minutes per side, to the desired degree of doneness. Remove and let stand.
3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet; add the peppers, garlic and onion, and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the salsa, and cook another 2-3 minutes, until the onions are very soft and the vegetables are wellcoated in the salsa.
4. Slice the meat across the grain into thin strips. Heat the tortillas according to package directions. Place 1/4 of the meat and vegetables on each tortilla, fold in half and serve.
Makes 4 servings, each with 387 calories, 29 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, 14 grams fat, 847 mg sodium.
Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.